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Public Safety

Man Accused In 2003 Murder Of Wife Pleads Not Guilty

A San Diego County Sheriff's Department vehicle is parked in this undated photo.
Alexander Nguyen
A San Diego County Sheriff's Department vehicle is parked in this undated photo.

The husband of a woman who went unidentified for nearly two decades after her legs were discovered in a trash bin in Rancho San Diego pleaded not guilty Thursday to a murder charge.

Jack Dennis Potter, 68, is accused in the death of 54-year-old Laurie Diane Potter, whose remains were found Oct. 5, 2003, in a trash bin in the 1600 block of Hilton Head Court.

Though investigators were able to determine the remains belonged to an adult female victim of a homicide, her identity and what happened to her remained a mystery until recently, according to sheriff's Lt. Thomas Seiver.

The sheriff's department has not released a cause of death or a suspected motive for the killing, though Seiver said investigators have uncovered "substantial and conclusive evidence" that Potter murdered his wife.

RELATED: Arrest Announced In 2003 Murder Of Woman Found In Rancho San Diego Dumpster

The criminal complaint charging Potter with murder indicates authorities believe the victim was killed on either Oct. 4 or Oct. 5, 2003, but does not specify how she died.

Potter was arrested last week at his apartment in Rancho Cucamonga, Seiver said. He's being held without bail at the San Diego Central Jail. No additional details regarding the alleged killing were disclosed at Potter's brief morning arraignment. In addition to murder, Potter faces three felony counts of perjury allegedly committed in 2008 and 2009, but details on those charges were not disclosed.

Genetic genealogy testing, the same technology used to capture the Golden State Killer, aided investigators in identifying Laurie Potter, who was a Temecula resident at the time of her death, Seiver said.

"This case was unlikely to have ever been solved without the use of investigative genetic genealogy," according to Seiver, who said Laurie Potter was never reported missing. Troy DuGal, a detective with the sheriff's Cold Case Homicide unit, said Laurie's family, though unaware of her whereabouts, believed she was still alive.

Seiver said the case is the first in the San Diego region in which the technology was used to identify a homicide victim. DuGal said genetic genealogy was used on two prior occasions to identify local homicide suspects, both of whom were already deceased by the time they were identified.