Tennessee jury convicts women in slayings that occurred after one was unfriended on Facebook

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JONESBOROUGH, Tennessee — A jury in East Tennessee on Tuesday convicted a mother and daughter in a double slaying that prosecutors said was prompted by the younger woman being deleted as a friend on Facebook.

The jury in Jonesborough found 64-year-old Barbara Potter and 35-year-old Jenelle Potter of Mountain City guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree murder, media reported. Barbara Potter was also found guilty of tampering with evidence.

Both women were sentenced to life in prison. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for June 17 to determine whether the sentences will be served consecutively or concurrently.

The two were convicted in the 2012 slayings of 36-year-old Billy Payne and 23-year-old Billie Jean Hayworth, who were found dead inside their Johnson City home.

Prosecutors said they were satisfied with the verdict. Jenelle Potter's lawyer, Cameron Hyder, attended by teleconference. He said later by phone he had hoped for a different outcome. Barbara Potter's lawyers didn't comment.

Assistant District Attorney General Dennis Brook says the killings happened after Jenelle Potter was "unfriended" by the couple on Facebook.

Defense attorneys said in closing arguments that prosecutors didn't prove the women were involved in the killings.

Prosecutors presented emails during the trial that they said showed the women masterminded the killings as revenge.

Hyder, Jenelle Potter's lawyer, called the prosecution's case "smoke and mirrors."

As his last witness, he called Dr. Eric Engum, who testified that he didn't think Jenelle Potter had the intellect to help plan the killings.

"The allegation that she is in some way a mastermind flies in the face of the fact that she's functioning like a fourth-grader," Engum said.

Assistant District Attorney General Matt Roark said even fourth-graders can manipulate their parents. He said Jenelle Potter manipulated her parents into thinking she was in danger because she had a crush on Payne and was jealous of his relationship with Hayworth.

"Jenelle Potter wanted the boyfriend, wanted the family," Roark said. "Her jealously, her selfishness is really what drives this whole thing."

The trial, which began on May 4, took place in Jonesborough due to publicity.

Marvin Potter, Jenelle Potter's father, is already serving two life sentences for the slayings.

Another defendant in the case, Jamie Curd, testified at Barbara and Jenelle Potter's trial. He is pleading to two counts of facilitation to commit first-degree murder and will serve 25 years, said Curd's lawyer, Casey Sears.

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