tv 2020 ABC October 9, 2015 10:01pm-11:01pm EDT
for a small town, there was a whole lot of crazy here. >> delusion, depravity. >> and a sheltered young woman, living her life on facebook. >> she was good behind a keyboard. as long as she didn't have to do it face to face. >> when she tries more than just friending people, things get ugly. >> i was a bad person. i was horrible. i went through a whole lot. >> the young couple she says bullied her. >> oh, my god. >> end up dead. caught in the cross hairs of a
facebook feud. >> this is the bedroom where she was found. >> it was a precision execution. in and out happened very quickly. >> facebook. >> facebook defriending that led to murder. >> what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to decei deceive. >> was it a rogue cia agent that nobody has met? could it be her own mother or father? or someone playing murderous mind games by just tapping on a keyboard? >> she may be operating on a fourth grade level, but she has
a phd in manipulating. >> why are you crying? >> we're done. >> but we're just getting started. does mother know best? >> seems like you're completely blameless or you're an exquisite liar. >> what do you believe? >> good evening. social media is supposed to connect people, but this involves everything from romance to revenge. >> what happens when fingers on a keyboard become a weapon. here's matt gutman. >> reporter: drive up the winding mountain roads of northeast tennessee and you'll find breathtaking views, stunning scenery. they don't call it mountain city for nothing. >> everybody knows everybody. everybody is related by blood or marriage to everybody else.
they all go to the same churches. >> reporter: the sign at the city limits would like to suggest this is a congenial community of 2,500 with its arms wide open. the sign welcoming people to mountain city says, a friendly hometown. friendly to you? >> uh, no. >> reporter: why not? >> because i wasn't born and raised here. i didn't grow up here. people here do not like outsiders. >> reporter: jenelle potter could have used a good friend. plagued with debilitating health problems since she was little, she's now a loner who spends most of her time inside this shuttered ranch house under the watchful eyes of parents buddy and barbara potter. what kind of person is she? >> good-natured, sweet person. she is not an angry person. >> reporter: naïve, young, innocent? >> yes, very naive. and she is young in her mind, more young than her age, i think. >> reporter: and although she doesn't sound like it, jenelle is 30 years old.
>> looks good, right? >> reporter: her room is filled with animals stuffed that stand in as friends. she doesn't work and doesn't drive, and she confides in us she's never been with a man. what were the rules? >> don't be out past 12:00 at night. no smoking, no drinking, no partying. stuff like that. >> reporter: they are a god-fearing and gun-loving family. even when they garden they pack heat. mom barbara had a job with hewlett packard. and dad marvin potter, better known as buddy, was a former marine who served in vietnam rescuing p.o.w.s. and later he says he served with the cia. sounds like rambo. >> i just saw him as a gentle giant. >> reporter: but age has taken its toll. both are now disabled, buddy even on an oxygen tank. but jenelle's life support becomes social media. so because you didn't drive, that's one of the reasons that your social world became the computer. >> yes. i have a lot of family pictures
on there. random pictures of sceneries, dogs. >> reporter: selfies? any selfies? >> mm-hmm. >> reporter: did your parents have access to your facebook? did they monitor it? >> yes, yes. >> reporter: you're a woman in your late 20s and your parents have access to your facebook page? >> well -- >> reporter: but a simple trip to the pharmacy would be a turning point in jenelle's life. a kind employee named tracy greenwell takes it upon herself to befriend the social misfit jenelle. >> we felt sorry for jenelle because she was sheltered and sick and stuff. she gave me her phone number, i started calling her. >> i would go out with her to the mall, to her house, out to eat. >> reporter: they even got her to rappel. these are pictures of the new fast friends at backbone rock, a local landmark. sitting next to a scared jenelle is tracy's brother, billy payne, a jokester who likes the outdoors. did you ever get the impression that maybe she liked billy? >> that's what everybody says.
she fell in love with bill, but i still don't see it like that. >> reporter: instead, tracy tried pairing jenelle up with someone else, introducing her to jamie curd, an older man who's pretty handy with computers. the kind of guy who likes to wear shades indoors. >> jamie was sort of rough-looking, you know, greasy. and she was neat. >> reporter: so why did you think to set up jamie and jenelle? >> jamie didn't have a girlfriend, and she really didn't have a boyfriend. they didn't look like they'd go together by no means. >> reporter: jenelle and jamie became an unlikely item, hiding their relationship from her strict parents. he's at the potter house from time to time, supposedly to fix the family's p.c., but behind her parents' back, jenelle and jamie would steal time and a few kisses together, snapping these secret romantic selfies. you and jamie got pretty serious at one point. >> yes. >> reporter: he gave you a cell phone so that you guys could talk without your parents being on the phone. >> yes. >> reporter: how often would you talk? >> every day.
>> reporter: for long periods? >> for an hour, two hours at a time. >> reporter: now, take note of jamie curd and all that clandestine canoodling. because you're going to hear a lot more about him a little bit later. but even while she's with jamie, jenelle is still secretly pining away for that outdoorsman she met, billy payne. and right around that time something sinister is happening with her online relationships. she's being relentlessly cyber-bullied. appalling, anonymous comments begin appearing on her facebook page. what kinds of things were people saying about you? >> i was a bad person. i was horrible. threatened to get raped. >> reporter: must have been pretty scary. >> yes. >> i remember, i wrote, "please do not write on jenelle's facebook." i begged them, "please don't do this." >> reporter: and jenelle thinks she knows who it is, pointing the finger directly at one of her so-called facebook friends, billie jean hayworth. what was her relationship like
with billie jean? >> oh, she hated her. >> reporter: from the get-go? >> mm-hmm. she would call her all kinds of bad names. >> reporter: there might be one other reason these two don't get along. billie jean is engaged to, guess who, the object of jenelle's obsession, billy payne. and together, the loving couple have a 7-month-old baby boy. friends say janelle was so jealous she started spewing some online venom of her own. >> that she wished that bill and billie jean and that damn baby would die. >> reporter: an all-out hatfield and mccoy-like feud erupts on social media, pinning the two couples against each other. >> the cauldron is boiling. amongst these players all egging each other on. >> she was always saying that somebody was mad at her, somebody hated her, somebody wanted to kill her. she was paranoid about it. >> reporter: but so far, it's all just virtual violence. but then it escalated. >> i was calling the police a lot.
they are trying to set me up and i don't like this because i'm very sick. they were wanting to blow my dad's truck, throwing rocks at the house. >> reporter: these are police photographs of a rock that landed in the potter's front yard. written on it were two names, billy payne and billie jean. and across the side, "i'm your huckleberry." now at one point, did they unfriend you on facebook? >> i think that we did it to each other. i unfriended them, they unfriended me. >> reporter: who unfriended who first? >> i did bill first and then i think billie did me. and i unfriended her. >> reporter: but unfriending would only be the beginning. >> there's no pulse. they're white, they're dead. there's a baby involved. >> reporter: when we come back, the young couple's house becomes a crime scene. >> my impression after, you know, the first week was, it looked like a hit. >> reporter: like a contract hit? >> right. >> reporter: suspects in custody, and an investigation
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10:30 a.m. on a blustery january morning, a call comes in to the johnson county, tennessee, 911 dispatchers. >> there's a baby involved. he don't look right. >> reporter: the caller is a friend of billy payne and billie jean hayworth. she's dropped by the young couple's home to find the back door open and inside, something much worse . their infant son covered in blood. eerily silent but unharmed. >> he's in one room, she's in the other by the playpen. it kind of looks like she was trying to get to her baby. >> reporter: the baby's father, billy payne, and billie jean, his mom -- the young couple who had been feuding with janelle have been shot. >> this murder, these murders have literally torn apart the sleepy little town of mountain city, tennessee. >> reporter: special agent scott lott with the tennessee
bureau of investigation takes "20/20" inside the crime scene. >> this is the bedroom where billy was found. >> single shot? >> single shot in the face. >> reporter: billy payne's throat had also been slashed as he lay in bed. down the hall, in the nursery, billie jean had been cradling their baby in her arms when she died. >> that's how they find her, still holding her 7-month child. >> reporter: so it didn't take much time to get from that room to this room to shoot? >> no. >> reporter: this is five feet. >> it takes a cold-blooded person to shoot someone holding a baby. >> reporter: miraculously, the 7-month-old survived without a scratch. but his parents' cold-blooded killer had left virtually no clues. were you able to glean very much forensic evidence from this scene? >> it was a very clean scene as far as physical evidence goes. >> reporter: so no prints, no shell casings, no dna left behind.
>> not that we found. no, sir. >> reporter: would that lead you to believe that whoever did this killing had some training? >> it looked like a hit. >> reporter: like a contract hit? >> right. >> reporter: but who in the so-called "friendly hometown" of mountain city, tennessee, would put a hit on a young couple who just worked at the local cotton mill? words spreads fast in small towns like this one. and the day after the murders, chief deputy joe woodard goes to the potters' home to talk to janelle and her parents, barbara and buddy. >> we went to the residence and just more or less conducted an interview with them in the very beginning. >> reporter: why'd you decide to go to them of all people? >> because we knew that they had trouble with them. >> reporter: trouble like that social media catfight between jenelle and the two victims. >> scott lott with the tennessee bureau -- >> oh, okay. nice to meet you. >> have a seat. >> reporter: the potters don't know it, but detectives are secretly recording their interview. >> what we're doing right now is investigating a double homicide,
very serious matter. >> reporter: from the start, janelle's dad is defensive. >> everybody always points a finger at us for something. >> there ain't nobody pointing their fingers. >> do you know of anybody that would hurt them? want to hurt them? >> actually, i don't. and i feel bad about this situation, because i didn't want no harm on them. >> reporter: initially sympathetic, janelle soon lets it fly about the bad blood between her and her former facebook friends. >> they've been harassing me, in my driveway, on our property. then yesterday morning when i got on facebook is when i found out. and i mean, i'm sorry it happened, but i mean, that's all i can tell you is they had been harassing the living crap out of me. >> why would they be harassing you? >> it turned out to be a jealousy thing. they say i was too pretty. >> reporter: but then the cops want to talk about somebody else.
remember jamie curd, jenelle's secret sweetheart? police know he'd had a falling out with the victims and took jenelle's side in the feud. >> what's jamie to you? >> he's just a friend. we've been friends for years. >> he's friends of our family. >> yeah. >> he's friends to all of us, to me. >> reporter: it seems as if jenelle is still covering up her romantic relationship with jamie from her overprotective parents. >> is jamie kind of like your boyfriend? >> no. he's a just really good friend. >> does he want to be your boyfriend? >> not that i know of. >> reporter: but detectives are still suspicious jamie and jenelle are a lot closer than she's letting on. and wonder what he might know about the murders. >> have a seat there, jamie. >> reporter: so they haul jamie curd downtown and ask him to take a polygraph. >> you could tell he's nervous. we confront him with the results of the polygraph. >> reporter: and the results? curd fails miserably.
the polygraph indicates that he lied about knowing the identity of the killer. now investigators think they've got their man. >> i think you went in there and said, "i'm going to take care of this situation." i'm going to take care of people who mess with janelle. people ain't going to mess with my girl no more. >> she's not my girl. >> you may say that out loud, but you know in your heart the difference. >> reporter: but hours go by and jamie curd still denies that he's involved in the murders. >> were you the only person -- >> no. >> there when they were killed? >> i wasn't there. >> reporter: then, out of the blue, it's jamie asking them a question. a bizarre one which has the investigators dumbfounded. >> is the cia here? >> cia? >> no. >> jamie, in the interview, had said something to the effect of, "is the cia here?" that was a very strange question to me. >> can i ask a question? why did you ask about the cia?
>> because they says he works for them. >> reporter: it's going to be a major breakthrough in the case. jamie tells detectives that he'd been texting with a mysterious man named chris, who told him he was in the cia. who says his job was to protect janelle from her enemies. >> he said that he's going to go to billy's. >> reporter: but why in the world would a cia agent be involved in this tiny town's deadly internet feud? >> there is 2,500 people there. there's a guardian angel cia agent. i smell a rat. >> reporter: and when we come back, why has janelle's disabled father suddenly become a suspect? >> i said you would never, ever consider hurting someone over this, would you? >> reporter: next. because of a saggy diaper it's time to dance freely thanks to new pampers cruisers
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"20/20"'s #unfriended. >> just have a seat there, jamie. >> reporter: it's 10:00 p.m. at the johnson county sheriff's office, a department so small that the chief deputy's office doubles as an interrogation room. jamie curd has been in the hot seat for nearly six hours, interrogated about the double murder of a young couple that allegedly bullied his girlfriend, jenelle. >> i'll tell you what's going to make you feel better. when you tell us the truth. >> reporter: after a bizarre exchange with detectives about jamie being in touch with someone supposedly in the cia, jamie is about to drop a bombshell, pointing the finger at someone much closer to home. >> who shot him? >> he did. >> he who? buddy? >> yeah. >> reporter: jamie's just named buddy potter, janelle's overprotective father, as the killer. buddy? the senior citizen former marine who needs a six-pack of oxygen just to breathe?
he's not exactly your central casting assassin. >> buddy potter, because he has so many ailments. he's very ill. he's on an oxygen tank, for pete's sake. no way could he ever pull this off. >> reporter: in an attempt to save his own skin, jamie agrees to help police snare buddy. with detectives recording the conversation, jamie calls his accomplice. it's a trap to get a confession on tape. >> well, they're pointing fingers. >> oh, jiminy christmas. >> you got rid of everything that was from bill's, didn't you? >> uh-huh. >> okay, that makes me feel a lot better. >> yeah. >> reporter: it wasn't exactly a smoking gun, but it was enough for detectives to move in and arrest jenelle's father, buddy, in a predawn raid. gun-loving buddy was almost always gun-toting, so police were on high alert.
>> we knew he had a weapon and at one point we thought he made a gesture to us. >> reporter: what kind of gesture? >> just like, he was going to do like this, and we grabbed his arm. >> reporter: and was he, in fact, armed? >> he was. >> reporter: now it's buddy's turn to answer some tough questions. >> you know why you're here, right? >> that somebody's told you i'm the one who killed somebody. >> initially, his body language, you could tell he wasn't being truthful with us. >> i'm not going to tell you i did something i didn't do. >> he denied everything. we pressed him and pressed him and pressed him. cold-hearted killer? protector of your family? which one are you? >> i'm protector of my family, to start with. but i did not do this. >> reporter: agent lott is getting nowhere fast. so he changes his strategy, switching from inquisitor to sympathizer. >> i believe you are sick and tired. the most precious person in your life being attacked and harassed
constantly. i know that, okay? >> ever since all this crap started, i've had my life threatened. my wife has been threatened. they've threatened to take jenelle, cut her head off. >> reporter: agent lott's tactic works, and they're able to drill down to his motive. >> when you hear people plotting to take your -- catch you daughter in a restroom and murder her. they wanted to rape her because she's a virgin. and just so much -- >> reporter: finally, after an exhaustive four hours, a broken buddy breaks down. he's crying. >> my question that i got right now, does jenelle and barbara know what you did? >> no.
>> reporter: agent lott senses that buddy is right on the verge of a confession. so he uses another ploy, and they hit paydirt when they get him to call his wife, barbara. >> we let him make a phone call to barbara. >> barbara? >> yeah. >> before you find out from somebody else, i want you to know i was involved in it. i did it. >> what? >> some of it. >> he told barbara, "i did it." and that's as close to a confession as we got from him. >> reporter: buddy's wife, barbara, seems eager to provide him with an alibi. your husband confessed to it. >> yeah, but there's questions about that. >> reporter: so why would he admit to it? why would he confess? >> when they took him, they took no oxygen. they took no medication. and they interviewed him for hours. when his oxygen gets low he says things that don't make sense or are incorrect. you need to just say, you know,
you're not guilty. you're not guilty. >> reporter: but police think they've got a pretty good case, and now they're out to build it. they execute a search warrant on the potter house. so did you notice anything odd in the house or anything unusual? >> whenever the investigators went downstairs, there was a lot of firearms. we had rifles, shotguns, semis, i mean, it's just one of those. >> reporter: an arsenal. >> an arsenal, basically, yes. >> reporter: how many? >> i would say probably close to 60 different guns. >> reporter: 60? and it wasn't just in the basement. guns in the corner of the bedroom. guns inside the dresser drawer. and guns under the mattress. there's even an ammo belt draped around his oxygen tank. >> they had guns out the ying-yang. it's pretty overwhelming. >> reporter: looks like buddy's taken his right to bear arms to an extreme. yup, that's an ak-47 you're looking at. and there were knives, too, all around the house. even hanging from the antlers on the wall.
but there was more. >> even found pictures of the victims that were in the living room. >> reporter: you found pictures of the victims in the living room? >> yes, we sure did. >> reporter: was this some sort of mourning thing that they were trying to mourn for the victims? >> no, i don't think so. >> reporter: no, it certainly wasn't. these were facebook pictures of billie jean and her friends. was anything written on them? >> i think one of the pictures, i believe one of them had like "bitch" on it. >> reporter: which is kind of an odd thing to find after someone has been murdered in their house holding their baby. >> yes, exactly. >> reporter: and something else you may notice. all the pictures appear to be ripped in half. the cops caught jenelle's mother red-handed trying to destroy evidence. >> then all of a sudden, she ripped it in half. and i stopped her and i said, "give me those pieces of paper." >> reporter: in total, authorities seized 51 items from the potter house, including the family computer jenelle spent most of her time on. and when they impound buddy's truck, look what they find. three enormous bags stuffed with
shredded documents. >> we took those shredded documents. one of our agents spent a month of her life taping those back together. >> reporter: that agent meticulously reconstructed more than 100 pages that turn out to be e-mails, the lines from the shredder still visible. the e-mails are between the potters and a shadowy figure named chris, who was warning them that the murder victims had been plotting to kill jenelle. >> it appeared there was some type of conspiracy here. they kept referring to a guy named chris that's supposedly a cia operative or something. >> reporter: who is chris? the stunning revelation about his identity and his jaw-dropping relationship to janelle, next. hey, what are you doing? i got 17 months until i can upgrade to the new iphone 6s. i'm building a time machine so i don't have to wait. with sprint, i never have to wait. i get to upgrade to the newest iphone right away, whenever it comes out.
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>> reporter: in any other middle-american crime yarn, the cops would have called it a day. they've got two suspects in custody, janelle's father, buddy, and her boyfriend, jamie, for gunning down billy payne and billie jean hayworth. now, both men have confessed to being involved, and both are awaiting trial. but the most unbelievable twist yet was on that appalachian horizon. >> it's not really a whodunit to me. it's a why did they do it. >> reporter: barbara potter can't make sense of the fact that buddy is behind bars. >> he's never been violent. he's never, neither one of us ever broke the law. we tried to be, to do the right thing always. >> reporter: and yet there he is at johnson county jail accused of first-degree murder. so how was such a heinous murder conducted? >> how would i know that? >> reporter: remember, a search of the potters' home reveals an arsenal of weapons and bags of shredded e-mails.
>> at least 100 pages got taped back together. >> reporter: and in those e-mails? conversations between barbara potter and a man named chris, who says he worked for the cia, warning barbara about threats to her daughter's life. chris was doing some surveillance and intelligence work, right? >> he said he was. >> reporter: who is chris? >> i have no idea who this chris person is. >> reporter: what was his job? >> he was a cia agent. >> reporter: what kind of stuff did he do? >> he said he was down here to protect me. protect my parents. >> reporter: but why would a cia agent descend on such a sleepy small town? could it have something to do with buddy's service in vietnam? barbara says that part of her husband's past is top secret. is he allowed to talk about what he did? >> no. never. >> reporter: was he ever in the cia or attached to the cia? >> oh, he said he was. >> reporter: chris told barbara, jenelle's mom, he was watching their every move and was monitoring all that venom the
victims were allegedly spreading on social media. >> he was watching these people he said that were harassing her on the computer. and calling her. >> reporter: in mountain city, tennessee, there is 2,500 people there. there's a guardian angel cia agent? no. >> reporter: police are rolling their eyes, too, and when they take a closer look at the computer they've seized from the house, a eureka moment. those e-mails from mr. cia man chris were all coming from an ip address that belonged to her daughter jenelle. >> every one of them pointed straight back at hospital road, mountain city, which was barbara and janelle's home address. >> reporter: that leaves the police to deduce only one thing -- there is no "chris" from the cia. he was a creation concocted by jenelle potter to convince her parents she was in danger. >> social media allowed jenelle
potter to be someone that she wasn't. >> reporter: she invented this character. >> exactly, exactly. when she invented chris, she could assume a different identity and be as hateful as she wanted to be. >> reporter: it happens more often than you think. it's called catfishing, false online identities are created usually to lure someone into a relationship. and there's even a whole tv show about it. >> how come you've been pretending to be someone else? >> reporter: so she's catfishing her mom from the same house, from the same computer. >> she bought it hook, line, and sinker. >> reporter: how is that possible? >> she was feeding barbara's delusions, so barbara ignores the, the signs that something is amiss here. >> reporter: it's beyond absurd. >> in all catfish cases, at some point the victim of the catfishing is, is guilty of some degree of being naive. >> reporter: but janelle's mother barbara is about to go
from naive to nefarious. and in those e-mail exchanges it sure sounds like she wants billy payne and billie jean dead. in one email to chris, barbara writes, "we've had enough. no one wants to kill anyone but we will." >> barbara would take this information and show it to buddy. "buddy, look. look what they're trying to do look what they're trying to do eporter: janelle just catfished herself and her mom into the police crosshairs. now the cops want to know where they were the morning of the murders. focusing on the wee hours when jenelle is exchanging secret text messages with her beau jamie curd. and it sure sounds to police like janelle knows exactly what her father and her boyfriend are about to do. at 4:39 a.m., this message. "yes, he's leaving now. i hear the car." police believe she's talking about her father on his way to
pick up jamie. the final text a minute later -- "i love you. text me asap when you get back." >> and then all of a sudden the text messaging ends. and presumably around 5:00 in the morning, buddy picks up jamie and they drive over. >> reporter: over to the victim's house where they savagely kill billy payne and billie jean. for prosecutor dennis brooks, it's all proof these murders were a family affair. >> one thing that was very telling about jenelle being involved in the preparation for the killing is the text messaging she does. >> reporter: coming up, jenelle in jail. where our interview turns sour. chris was you. you are chris. >> i think we're done here. >> reporter: and will barbara throw her daughter under the bus to save her own bacon? >> i love her, but i'm not going to serve life for her. no. >> reporter: stay with us.
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we return to "20/20"'s #unfriended. >> ms. potter is wanted in johnson county on two counts of first-degree murder. >> reporter: the potters got problems. >> the trial for a mother and daughter, charged with murder. >> reporter: prosecutors accuse them of murdering a young couple they had bickered with on facebook. the family patriarch, buddy, confessed to the killing and is serving two life sentences. his accomplice, jamie curd, copped a plea deal for 25 years. but now, under arrest, is what's left of this dysfunctional family, barbara potter and her daughter janelle. three and a half years after the murders, mother and daughter have their day in court. through seven days of testimony, prosecutor dennis brooks tries
to convince the jury that jenelle was really the one who authored all those e-mails supposedly from chris. catfishing her own parents and goading her father into those executions. case in point? all that childish writing and those misspellings. "r-e-s-o-n." similar throughout the documents. >> reporter: ironically, it's the same argument her attorney cameron hyder makes in her defense. >> jenelle potter operates on the level of an 8 or 9 year old. >> reporter: essentially saying janelle lacks the brainpower to mastermind a murder. >> my client is not guilty for having an overprotective father. >> reporter: so just because buddy went and did something horrific, it doesn't mean that jenelle directed him to do it? >> absolutely. she is not capable of directing anyone to commit murder. it's just not in her. >> reporter: a countrified cast of characters takes the stand, but one prosecution witness brought gasps to the courtroom. >> my name is
christopher jaden. >> reporter: chris jaden, a handsome former high school classmate of jenelle's, one she hasn't seen in 15 years. >> she was one of those kids who was very strange. >> reporter: but chris must have made a much bigger impression on her. because this chris is the person whose identity janelle stole to catfish her family. chris works for security all right, just not national security. >> the second chris comes in, her eyes were just drawn to him. would not leave him as he testified, her eyes were fixed on him. >> reporter: 'cause he's the real thing and he's a good-looking guy. she apparently thought billy payne was too. which is why if she couldn't have him said the prosecutor nobody could. >> jenelle had a crush on billy payne. >> a biblical crush on him, an epic crush on him and when he moved on with billy jean hayworth and they had a child, that was it. she went berserk.
>> billie jean hayworth moved in with bill payne and became pregnant. that's when the chris e-mails began. they would talk about the baby. baby tyler. they would call him that damn baby. that baby needs to die. no one talks that way about an infant other than a woman perhaps who is jealous that that's not her infant. >> reporter: but the prosecutors have a problem. their evidence is entirely circumstantial. there is nothing linking barbara and jenelle to the crime scene. >> even if a jury believes they are involved with this, do they take that leap and call it first degree murder? >> reporter: but the jury jumped in with both feet. >> we the jury find the defendant barbara may potter guilty of first degree murder. >> we the jury find jenelle l. potter guilty of first degree murder.
>> reporter: for the families of the victims, an emotional scene. >> a lot of relief. glad this is finally getting over. maybe we can let billy and billy jean rest now. >> it's amazing to me that these murders were carried out without janelle potter ever pulling the trigger herself. >> reporter: jenelle and barbara got exactly what they took away from billy payne and billie jean hayworth, life behind bars. shortly after their conviction, i meet up with the big house bunkmates. they chose not to testify at the trial but tonight we put the questions to barbara and jenelle that they didn't have to answer in court. why did you write to chris that you wanted them dead? >> i didn't. >> yeah, you did, from these e-mails. >> well, you can believe those e-mails if you want. >> reporter: who wrote this one,
two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11-page e-mail? that's a long e-mail. and you write, i will kill if i have to. >> that's not me. that is not me. i'm not that kind of person, i'm not evil. >> reporter: but probably the most revealing e-mail, isn't one barbara exchanged with chris but rather one she sent to herself. a link to a billy graham article on forgiveness and murder. couple weeks before the murders, you had searched, can god forgive a murderer? >> that's not me, no, i did not. i don't want anybody murdered. i did not do that. >> reporter: maybe jenelle? >> i don't know. i would hope not. >> reporter: do you think if you passed that you'd go to heaven? >> yes. definitely. and with a clean conscience. i could die right now and i would feel good about it, i
would go. i love my daughter, i love my husband, but i would not sit here and lie for them. >> reporter: you wouldn't take a hit for your daughter? >> no, not me. i love her, but i'm not going to serve life for her, no. >> reporter: apparently there's a limit to this mother's love. but what's not in short supply in this family are lies. can god forgive your mother? >> i'm sure. >> reporter: what about you? >> i didn't murder anyone. >> reporter: you don't have any responsibility for the murder of billy payne, billie jean? >> i don't. no. >> reporter: none? >> no. >> reporter: but you hated them. you hated them enough to tell your father that they were really torturing you. and you must've hated them if they were harassing you time after time again and again. >> i didn't hate them i just disliked them. i wanted to quit. i wanted the harassment to stop. i went through a lot with them.
but i never wished them dead. i never wanted them dead. >> reporter: jenelle begins to cry. is it real? or is it just another move in her game of master manipulation? chris was you. >> no. >> reporter: you are chris. you invented him like you invented other characters. >> no, i didn't. >> reporter: just happened to be from your e-mail, happened to from your computer with your fingertips. >> reporter: it was from your ip address from your e-mail address. >> we're done. >> reporter: jenelle potter shuts down in tears and walks out of our interview and back to her cell. the family that just a month before the murders spent christmas posing for photos together now taking a very different kind of snapshot.
>> thank you. as of tonight, all three of these people behind ba to the couple who set aside the whole day to sell their old car and buy a new one... oops. nana's got the kids til 9... but it's only 2. guess you'll just have to see a movie... ...then get some dinner. what a pity. every time you take advil
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teenager at the center of it all. >> four innocent people dead. >> it was carnage and destruction. >> the crime that horrified the country. the sentence that ignited a firestorm when an affluent kid isn't serve jail time. now, he's talking for the first time. >> that's next week. thank you for watching tonight. i'm elizabeth vargas. >> and i'm david muir. have a great weekend. >> and coming up on "action news" a sinkhole stops a local driver if her tracks and eagles help spread homecoming cheer
for sick children and that's help spread homecoming cheer for sick children and that's next. this is the way it looked in downingtown late today. pouring rain and strong winds had people taking shelter. and accuweather warned us about this. and obviously, for good reason. and it is friday night and the big story on "action news" tonight is the tri-state