NewsLocal NewsSan Diego News


Arrest made in 18-year-old San Diego cold case using investigative genetic genealogy

SDSO says Laurie Potter was murdered by husband
Cold Case Laurie Potter.png
Posted at 4:50 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 20:19:39-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Friday afternoon, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department announced that it had made an arrest in a Jane Doe cold case from 2003.

Detectives arrested Jack Potter for the murder of his wife Laurie Potter after a months-long investigation using investigative genetic genealogy.

In October 2003, the San Diego Sheriff's Department responded to a 911 call after someone found a pair of legs stuffed in a Rancho San Diego apartment complex dumpster.

"The medical examiner conducted an autopsy and determined the legs were that of an adult female," Lt. Thomas Seaver said.

For years, she remained a Jane Doe until the department's cold case team took over last summer, using investigative genetic genealogy, the same techniques used to bring in the Golden State Killer.

"DNA was sent to the lab, then we uploaded it to a public genealogy database. I then got a familial match," Detective Troy DuGal said.

Dugal and his team first found a distant relative from the 1800s. They then collected samples from 20 relatives and worked their way down the family tree to finally name the Jane Doe.

"By December 2020, the team had located the women's adult son. Through further DNA testing, the woman was identified as Laurie Diane Potter," Lt. Seaver said.

Laurie Potter was a 54-year-old Temecula resident when she was killed. Through traditional detective work, they found substantial evidence that pointed to Potter's suspected killer: her husband. On Wednesday, the San Diego Fugitive Task Force arrested Jack Dennis Potter, now 68 years old, at his home in Rancho Cucamonga for murder.

"It's the first time a law enforcement agency in the San Diego region to use this to identify a victim and arrest a suspect," Undersheriff Kelly Martinez said.

The team has used investigative genetic genealogy techniques to find suspects in two other cases. However, both suspects were found deceased, and the cases were closed. This is the first time in the region that the suspect was found alive and arrested, and only the second time in United States history where the victim was identified using IGG.

"The victim's family, and I have spoken to them, are very happy that I, number one, found Laurie because they thought she was just living somewhere nobody knew. And they are extremely happy once they got over the grief of Laurie being deceased, that we've identified and arrested the suspect."

Detectives said the murder investigation is ongoing. Jack Potter will appear in San Diego County court to face murder charges next Thursday.