Genetic genealogy has led to the arrest of a suspect in a cold case murder that has baffled authorities in California for almost two decades.
On Oct. 5, 2003, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department was called to an apartment complex in Rancho San Diego for the report of human remains found in a dumpster. Responding deputies discovered a female’s severed legs.
The medical examiner could not determine the victim’s cause of death, but ruled the manner was homicide. “Despite the medical examiner and homicide unit’s best efforts, the woman was not identified and, unfortunately, the case went cold,” Lt. Thomas Seiver of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Unit said at a May 14 press conference.
In June 2020, authorities selected the case for a genetic genealogy investigation, a first in the region, Seiver noted.
About six months later, December 2020, investigators had built a family tree that went back to the 1800s and eventually managed to locate the victim’s adult son. Through him, they identified the remains as belonging to Laurie Diane Potter.
San Diego law enforcement officials then began an intense investigation into Potter’s life with the help of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department.
“We went back through her life and tried to identify who she was and where she was living, who were her friends and family during that time frame,” Seiver told reporters.
At the time of the Temecula resident’s death, Potter was 54 and married to Jack Dennis Potter.
Lt. Seiver said the investigation revealed through “substantial” and “conclusive” evidence that Jack Potter, 68, murdered his wife, who was never reported missing. Authorities arrested the suspected killer at his Rancho Cucamonga apartment complex on May 12, and he was booked into the San Diego Central Jail without bail.
“This case would have unlikely to have ever been solved without the use of investigative genetic genealogy,” Seiver said.
Anyone with information about Potter’s case is asked to call the sheriff’s homicide unit at (858) 285-6330 or after hours at (858) 565-5200.
Anonymous tips can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477, or online.