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Facebook ‘defriending’ led to double murder in Tennessee

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As reported by Reuters this week, 36-year-old Billy Payne Jr. and his 23-year-old girlfriend, Billie Jean Hayworth, were both murdered after removing and blocking a woman previously on their Facebook friend’s list named Jenelle Potter. The parents of an 8-month-old baby boy named Tyler where allegedly shot and killed within their own home by Marvin Enoch “Buddy” Potter Jr., the 60-year-old father of the blocked woman, as well as 38-year-old Jamie Lynn Curd who has a romantic interest in Jenelle Potter. When police discovered the victims, Payne also has his throat slashed open and 8-month-old Tyler was found unharmed laying in the arms of the deceased mother.

Murder-ArraignmentWhen asked how Facebook played a role in the murder, Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece stated “That’s basically what sparked it. Her life is spent at that computer. She’s had some health problems, and she wasn’t working.” Reece continued “It’s just a senseless thing. She’d been blocked on Facebook by Billy Jean. Once you cross her, it’s a big thing to her father, too. And he’s something to deal with.” 

Payne and Hayworth had previously filed a complaint with the police department regarding phone and online harassment from Jenelle Potter. Police claimed that it was too difficult to prove and Tennessee law didn’t include any provisions for cyber-bullying at the time of the complaint.

The two men were arrested by local authorities on Tuesday and charged with two counts of first-degree murder on Wednesday in Mountain City, Tennessee. Potter is currently being held on a $200,000 bond and hasn’t retained an attorney yet. Curd’s bond shot up to $1.5 million, $750,000 for each murder count, after he retained the council of a public defender. Jenelle Potter hasn’t been charged with anything related to the crime as of yet. 

jennifer_harrisThis isn’t the first time that a spat on Facebook has been the catalyst for a crime. According to ABC News, a 30-year-old Iowa woman named Jennifer Christine Harris was arrested during late October 2011 in connection with setting a fire at the Des Moines home of Jim and Nikki Rasmussen. Previously the maid of honor at the Rasmussen’s wedding, the relationship between the couple and Harris evaporated after a dispute regarding plans for an upcoming birthday party. After Harris turned to online harassment, the couple defriended and blocked Harris on Facebook, thus sparking the intent to start a fire at the Rasmussen residence.

Prior to that event, 36-year-old Benito Apolinar, a resident of Pecos Texas, was arrested in connection to the assault of Dolores Apolinar as detailed by MSN News. Undergoing a trial separation, Benito Apolinar confronted his wife when dropping off the couple’s children in New Mexico. He then assaulted his wife because she didn’t “Like” or comment on a post regarding a reference to the anniversary of his mother’s death. According to an account from the police, he pulled his wife’s hair and punched her in the cheek. Apolinar claimed that she hit herself in the face and then assaulted him with her cellular phone.

Often times, people will simply post incriminating evidence on Facebook and subsequently get in trouble. During late 2011 and covered by USA Today, a 20-year-old Frankie Almuina and 19-year-old Kayla Almuina were both arrested in northern Arizona after the couple posted photos of an infant and a toddler being bound with duct tape on the mother’s Facebook page. As detailed by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office in Flagstaff, Arizona, the duct-taped children were also being hung upside-down on exercise equipment and their mouths were taped shut. The two children were put into the custody of family members after the two arrests.