MOUNTAIN CITY — Defendants Marvin Enoch “Buddy” Potter Jr., 60, and Jamie Lynn Curd, 38, did not speak a word in Sessions Court during Wednesday’s preliminary hearing into the Jan. 31 murders of Billy Clay Payne Jr. and Billie Jean Hayworth, but what they allegedly said to investigators and on recorded telephone calls provided the prosecution’s key testimony.
After hearing the evidence, Judge William Hawkins bound each of the two men over to a grand jury on two counts each of first-degree murder.
Assistant District Attorney General Matthew Roark called only one witness, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Scott Lott. The agent said between 50 and 60 people were interviewed during the investigation and he had interviewed both defendants.
Lott said Curd “made a statement on his involvement in the crime.” He said he then got Curd to make a recorded telephone call to Potter in which Curd asked him if he had gotten rid of the evidence. Although the recording was extremely hard to understand on the courtroom’s speaker system, Lott said Potter told him he had taken care of it.
Following this, Lott said he obtained an arrest warrant for Potter and a search warrant that was executed at Potter’s home at 3 a.m. on Feb. 7. Lott said during questioning at the sheriff’s office, Potter admitted to being a part of the murders and was a participant in order to protect his wife and daughter “from these people.”
Lott then allowed Potter to call his wife. The recording was of better quality and Potter began the conversation by telling his wife he wanted her to hear the news first from him. He then said on the tape “I was involved in it. I done it because of what they were doing to you and Janelle (their daughter) ... I did it to protect you.”
In news releases immediately after the arrests, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department reported the motive for the murders had been an Internet dispute between the slain couple and Potter’s daughter, which culminated with the couple removing Janelle Potter from their Facebook friends list.
Following the telephone call, Lott said he attempted to interrogate Potter further, but he stopped all questioning when Potter indicated he wanted a lawyer.
Earlier in his testimony, Lott gave details about the crime scene at 128 James Davis Lane. He said Payne was found lying on the bed in his bedroom. He had a bullet wound beneath his left eye and his throat was cut.
Hayworth was found in an adjoining bedroom, which had been made into a nursery for their 7-month old baby. She also had a bullet wound to the head.
Lott said the bodies were found by a former resident who came by on occasion to pick up his mail that was still sent to the address. He said the man was familiar enough with the family that he felt comfortable letting himself inside. He first found Payne and then Hayworth. Lott said the man took the unharmed baby away from its dead mother.
Roark then asked Lott to testify about what Curd had told him during questioning.
Lott said Curd told him he had gone to Potter’s house on the evening of Jan. 30 to work on their computer. The men then talked through the night and a few hours before sunrise, Curd said Potter invited him to go for a ride. Curd told Lott they took a direct route to Payne’s house. He said the house was dark and Potter told him to put on a pair of gloves.
Lott said Curd admitted to going into the dark house through the back door. He said he stood in a dark room while Potter went by himself into a bedroom. He noticed a light was on and there was a struggle in which Hayworth fled from the room. He said he heard one shot. He said Potter then went into another bedroom and another shot was fired.
Following the shots, Curd said Potter handed him a knife. Curd said Potter told him “you are in it too, cut him.” Lott said Curd would not say during the interview whether he had actually cut Payne’s throat, but he told the investigator he was frightened that Potter would kill him also if he didn’t obey. When he came back to Potter, he said Potter told him “this never happened and it will not be talked about.”
Lott said Curd’s descriptions were consistent with the crime scene. Under cross examination, defense attorney R.O. Smith asked if Curd could have come up with the details through reading newspaper accounts of the crime. Lott said he had not read the newspaper accounts so he did not know what had been published about the crime scene.
Defense attorney Randy Fallin and Assistant Public Defenders Smith and David Crichton did not present any evidence but cross examined Lott. Many of their questions centered on the procedures of the investigation.
Smith asked about a bullet found in the pillow in Payne’s room. Lott said the bullet has been sent to the TBI lab, but it appeared to be a .38 caliber or 9 mm. Smith asked if the murder weapon had been found. Lott said a total of 27 handguns had been seized and sent to the TBI lab.
In addition to ordering Potter and Curd to be bound over, Hawkins ordered their bond remain at $1.5 million each.
Smith asked Hawkins to waive Curd’s $4,000 public defender assessment in order to help him hire an attorney for the trial. Hawkins denied the motion. He said the public defender’s office provided two attorneys for Wednesday’s hearing and Curd had reported that he owned real estate worth $250,000 and only owed $9,000 on it.