Dad DENNIS POTTS had been found guilty of 1st-degree murder in the strangulation deaths of his 10-month-old son and his mother. It seems that Dad didn't want to be a dad, so he had researched fathers rights Internet sites on how to cheat on paternity tests and get out of child support. We've posted on this dad before.
Guilty Verdicts in Murders of Ex-Girlfriend and Baby
Last Update: 9/10 5:44 pm
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Bonita man was convicted Thursday of two counts of first-degree murder for strangling the mother of his child and killing his 10-month-old son because the woman was pressuring him to admit he was boy's father.
Dennis Potts, 25, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced Nov. 6 by San Diego Superior Court Judge Bernard Revak.
A jury of nine men and three women deliberated for about eight hours over three days before convicting Potts of killing 22-year-old Tori Vienneau and their child, Dean Springstube.
Potts leaned his head back as a court clerk announced the guilty verdicts, including a special circumstance allegation that he committed multiple murders and a charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The judge ordered the defendant held without bail pending sentencing. Potts was escorted out of the courtroom before family members left.
Dayna Herroz, Vienneau's mother, told reporters she was thrilled with the verdict.
"It has been three years that we have waited for justice," Herroz said. "We have always known who was responsible for this and today Tori and Dean finally got the only justice that we can have on Earth. We are ecstatic that he (Potts) was found guilty on all counts. because we knew he was."
Herroz said her family will live their lives in honor of her daughter and grandson.
"Tori was the funniest girl on Earth," her mother said. "She was sarcastically funny, she was witty, she was naive. She was beautiful inside and out and she was a wonderful, wonderful mother and she would have died protecting that child."
Herroz said she will continue to be involved with organizations that help grieving parents of murdered children.
"No parent should have to go through this. No grandparent should have to go through this," she said.
Potts' attorney, Kerry Armstrong, spoke briefly after the verdicts were read.
"Very disappointed, it was a hard-fought battle," Armstrong said. "Dennis is very upset. I respect the jury's verdict. It's a hard loss to take."
Deputy District Attorney Per Hellstrom told jurors in his closing argument Tuesday that Vienneau was killed July 26, 2006, on a night she and Potts had dinner plans.
Potts lied to police when he told them he called off dinner with Vienneau, Hellstrom said, because it was the victim who canceled the meeting. Vienneau planned to tell Potts that night she was taking him to court over the paternity of their baby, according to Hellstrom.
"This was clearly the catalyst that caused Mr. Potts to kill her," the prosecutor said, telling the jury the suggestion that a stranger broke into Vienneau's apartment and killed her and her baby was an "absurd conclusion."
A "ping" from a cell phone tower at 6:44 p.m. put the defendant near the victim's apartment in south San Diego around the time she was killed, the prosecutor said.
The defense claimed a man named Daniel Moen is the real killer, but Hellstrom said Moen couldn't have committed the crimes because he was at work.
Besides, Moen cared for Vienneau and loved her baby, Hellstrom said.
By contrast, Potts had no relationship with his son and lied "up and down" about his role in the murders, Hellstrom said.
Potts erased all of his text messages from that night, then ordered his cell phone records and altered them, the prosecutor said.
The defendant said he was at friend Max Corn's home working on a project when Vienneau was killed.
Hellstrom labeled as "chilling" the Internet searches done by Potts a month before the murders, when he researched such topics as "how to cheat a swab paternity test," "the best way to kill someone," "getting away with murder" and "getting out of child support."
Armstrong told the jury that Potts made the searches in connection with a school paper on euthanasia. He also had some fascination with death, was interested in mixed martial arts and was worried about his father's failing health, his lawyer said.
Potts' palm print on the door jam of the room where the baby was hanged in his crib could have been put there weeks before because the defendant had been to Vienneau's apartment three or four times, Armstrong argued.
Potts made changes to his cell phone records because he was "scared," but never showed the altered records to anyone, his attorney said.
Just because Potts lied to police doesn't mean he's guilty of murder, Armstrong said.
There is no direct evidence linking Potts to the murders, the defense attorney said.
"This is a 100 percent circumstantial case," Armstrong told the jury.
Hellstrom told the jury that Potts surprised Vienneau in her apartment, knocking her unconscious and then strangling her with the cord from a hair-straightening iron. Potts ripped the victim's blouse to try to make it look like she was sexually assaulted, the prosecutor said.
The defendant then proceeded to the baby's room and hanged the child in his crib with a cord from a cell phone charger, Hellstrom said.
Hellstrom said Potts lied to police when he said a paternity test he took was legitimate, when in fact he had used his friend Corn's DNA to submit for the test.
Corn, who faces a conspiracy charge, will be tried later.