SDSO

Man Pleads Not Guilty to Killing Wife Whose Legs Were Found in Dumpster in 2003

SDSO did not detail what evidence led them to suspect Jack Potter in his wife's gruesome death but “the investigation revealed substantial and conclusive evidence that Jack had murdered Laurie"

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A man accused of killing his wife and dumping her body parts into a Rancho San Diego Dumpster in 2003 appeared in court for the first time after detectives linked him to the nearly two-decades-old cold case.

Jack Dennis Potter, 68, pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in the death of his wife Laurie Potter, a 54-year-old Temecula woman whose legs were found in a dumpster behind an apartment complex in the 1600 block of Hilton Head Court on Oct. 5, 2003.

Detective Troy DuGal used investigative genetic genealogy to solve a cold case from 2003, when a woman's legs were found in a dumpster and couldn't be ID'd. He explains how public databases help in their search for suspects, and in this case, an unidentifiable victim.

No additional details regarding the alleged killing were disclosed at Potter's brief morning arraignment. In addition to murder, Potter faces three felony counts of perjury allegedly committed in 2008 and 2009, but details on those charges were not disclosed.

The criminal complaint charging Potter indicates authorities believe the victim was killed on either Oct. 4 or Oct. 5, 2003, but does not specify how she died.

It wasn't until December 2020 that Potter's remains could be identified, using a process called investigative genetic genealogy that inputs a DNA sample into public genetic databases in order to find relatives. Investigators then construct a family tree from matches that, they hope, can lead them to identifying either a victim or suspect.

It's the same method used by detectives to identify the Golden State Killer.

In Laurie Potter's case, the technique led investigators to her adult son in Dec. 2020, and with his genetic testing, detectives could confirm their deceased woman was Laurie Potter.

Then, it was time to relaunch the hunt for a suspect.

SDSO did not detail what evidence led them to suspect Potter in his wife's gruesome death but SDSO Homicide Lt. Thomas Seiver said “the investigation revealed substantial and conclusive evidence that Jack had murdered Laurie.”

Potter was arrested last week at his apartment in Rancho Cucamonga, according to San Diego County Sheriff's Lt. Thomas Seiver. He's being held without bail at the San Diego Central Jail.

Investigators said that no one reported Laurie Potter missing. Her family assumed she was alive but living elsewhere. The only person who knew she was dead -- according to investigators -- was her husband.

SDSO said it was the first time a law enforcement agency in San Diego County was able to use investigative genetic genealogy to solve a cold case and make an arrest. The method has been used to close prior cold cases, but in those instances, the suspect was dead at the time it was solved.

SDSO said their investigation is not done yet. They'd like to talk to anyone who knew Laurie or Jack Potter anytime from the 80s until now. Anyone with information was asked to contact the SDSO's homicide unit or Crime Stoppers.

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