Bereaved Family IDs Man Found Dead in Lowell Basement Freezer

The family of John Wayne Potter, whose sister was slain in Lowell in 1999, said he was the man kidnapped, tortured and stuffed dead into a freezer in Lowell

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The family of the man who was killed and put in a freezer in Lowell, Massachusetts, has identified him as John Wayne Potter.

Authorities haven't publicly identified the man whose body was found in a chest freezer in the basement of a home on Coburn Street this weekend, but Potter's family — which has dealt with deep tragedy before, when Potter's sister was killed as a girl — said they had reported the 37-year-old missing.



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"I can't even sleep, I can't shut my eyes, because all I see is whoever is bashing Johnny's head," said his stepmother, Donna Potter. "It's terrible, it's a terrible, terrible feeling."

The Middlesex District Attorney's Office is not publicly identifying the man found in the freezer, waiting on the medical examiner's office before identifying him, a representative said Tuesday.

John Wayne Potter's roommates, Michael Burke and Samantha Perry, both 38, have been charged with kidnapping for allegedly restraining and holding him against his will. No one has yet been charged with Potter's death.

The body was found after Potter's family reported him missing, they said. He hadn't shown up to Thanksgiving.

"As soon as I heard he was missing, I knew I knew something was wrong," Donna Potter said.

While prosecutors and police haven't publicly identified Potter, authorities have said in court paperwork that they began searching for the man after he was reported missing. Lowell police also issued a missing person alert for Potter on Thursday.

During the search, investigators received a phone call from someone who claimed they'd seen the victim "duct taped to a chair" in Lowell, and that they were unsure whether the victim was "hurt or dead and even suggested that [redacted] may have been buried in the back yard of that address," the court documents said.

Burke and Perry allegedly confessed to holding Potter against his will, torturing him and forcing his body into the freezer, but that someone else strangled him to death; they're held without bail and due back in court next week. Defense attorney Stanley Norkunas said outside a court hearing Monday that "it's the very beginning of what looks like a complex situation. I don’t know much more."

A pair of roommates is being charged with kidnapping, after allegedly restraining and holding a man in a home who was later found dead, according to authorities.

Authorities believe the body was in the freezer for over a week.

The Potter family is now raising money for another funeral as they wait to learn who's suspected of killing John Wayne.

Potter's sister was killed more than two decades ago. Tabitha Potter was found raped, strangled and partially buried in a park in Lowell in 1999.

Tabitha's killer, a house painter, hanged himself a few days later.

"We believe Tabitha Potter was the victim of her youth, her gregariousness, and the predator James Howley," Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said at the time, according to The Associated Press.

Donna Potter said she couldn't believe the family was experiencing that trauma again.

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