Man arrested 17 years after Temecula woman’s severed legs found in dumpster

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More than 17 years after his wife’s severed legs were found in a dumpster in San Diego County, authorities have arrested a Rancho Cucamonga man on suspicion of killing her, officials announced Friday.

On Oct. 5, 2003, San Diego Sheriff’s Department deputies got a call about a worker finding body parts in a dumpster. They arrived to find a pair of human legs in the 1600 block of Hilton Head Court in Rancho San Diego.

They determined the legs belonged to a woman who had been killed, but had no success identifying the victim or her killer. The case went cold for years.

Then, in June last year, a team with genetic genealogy training began investigating the case, looking for relatives with a DNA profile that matches the victim’s then using commercial genealogy sites to build her family tree and trace it down to her.

A few months later, investigators had found the woman’s son and were able to identify “Jane Doe” as 54-year-old Laurie Diane Potter of Temecula. A woman who was never reported missing.

“We went back through her life, and tried to identify with who she was and where she was living, who were friends or family during that timeframe,” said cold case homicide detective Troy DuGal said in a media briefing.

Investigators found that in 2003, before her killing, the woman was married to Jack Potter.

“The investigation revealed substantial and convincing evidence that Jack murdered Laurie,” San Diego sheriff’s Lt. Thomas Seiver said.

On Wednesday, deputies found now 68-year-old Jack Potter at his home in the 11200 block of 5th Street in Rancho Cucamonga. He was arrested and booked into a San Diego jail on suspicion of murder.

“Laurie was never recorded as a missing person.” Seiver said. “This case would have unlikely to have ever been solved without the use of investigative genetic genealogy.”

It was the first time the Sheriff’s Department’s homicide unit used the technology to identify a homicide victim and arrest a suspect in the killing.

Officials said the investigation remains ongoing and they would like to speak with people who knew the couple from the mid-80s, the lieutenant said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Homicide Unit at 858-285-6330 or 858-565-5200. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

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