MOUNTAIN CITY — The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department arrested two men on first-degree murder charges Tuesday morning, completing an intensive, weeklong search for the killers of Billy Clay Payne Jr., 36, and his girlfriend Billie Jean Hayworth, 23, while leaving the couple’s 6-month-old child alive in his mother’s arms.
Sheriff Mike Reece said Marvin E. “Buddy” Potter Jr., 60, 727 Hospital Road, and Jamie Lynn Curd, 38, 2358 Pleasant Valley Road, were taken into custody without incident.
The sheriff said the motive for the killings of the young couple was “senseless and stupid.” Potter was angry about Internet and telephone communications between the couple and his daughter.
Reece said the arrests were the culmination of an investigation by his department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in which officers interviewed between 150 and 170 people.
He said Potter and Curd were among the list of suspects at the start of the investigation and as more and more people were interviewed some suspects dropped off the list, but Potter and Curd kept returning. Finally, information gleaned from the interviews led to the department interviewing Potter and Curd with a polygraph. Things soon came into focus when Curd began to cooperate after the polygraph test.
The TBI reported Payne and Hayworth made complaints against Potter’s daughter last year for harassing them by telephone and over the Internet. Curd, who is Payne’s second cousin, went to court in defense of Potter’s daughter.
When the bodies of Payne and Hayworth were discovered inside their residence at 128 James Davis Lane on Jan. 31, Reece said his department had few clues. There was no forced entry, no weapons were found and there did not appear to be a struggle.
The last person to see the couple alive was Payne’s father. The couple lived in his house and he left for work in Boone, N.C., at 5:30 a.m. The bodies were discovered by a friend five hours later.
Reece said Payne was found in his bedroom with a gunshot wound to the head and his throat cut. Hayworth was found in the baby’s bedroom. She had been shot in the head. The child was uninjured and has been taken in by family members.
“I am really proud of my officers,” Reece said of the effort to seek justice for the slain family. “They worked many long hours during the past week and didn’t see much of their own families.”