Arrest made in arson-murder

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

A 22-year-old Lewisburg woman is being held on $1.5 million bond in the county jail on charges of criminal homicide and arson in last week's death of a 68-year-old carpenter who lived on Franklin Avenue.

Heather Renee McCollum of Woodlawn Street is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Sept. 11 before Marshall County General Sessions Court Judge Lee Bussart Bowles in connection with the Aug. 14 homicide.

McCollum, previously Rogers, is charged in the death of John Homer Poteete who was living in a one-story dwelling that he built at 602 Franklin Ave. McCollum was married in June when she changed her name from Rogers. Poteete's obituary appears on page 2 of today's Tribune.

Poteete's burned body was found in his Franklin Avenue home as a result of a fire call at 4 a.m. on that Tuesday.

About three and a half days later, police told Poteete's family about the arrest while they were at London Funeral Home, several blocks from the crime scene where a state bomb and arson agent continued to investigate Friday evening with Detective Sgt. David Henley, city Detective James Johnson, and other officers.

"He was laying in bed and she stabbed him and poured gas on him to burn his body," Wesley Poteete, the victim's brother, said. "We don't know why."

Asked if police have a motive, Henley replied, "We're working on it."

"To me," the victim's brother said Friday evening, "I'm at peace with it. The Lord will take care of it."

Poteete's 602 Franklin Ave. address is used for three dwellings he owned. Amy Greer and several of her relatives live in the house that fronts Franklin Avenue and she said John Poteete would get the mail from the roadside mail box and distribute it to his tenants.

That address was given for a woman named Heather in police reports nearly four and a half years ago.

The other Heather was revealed when Rogers' photo was erroneously released instead of a picture of Heather Dawn Hobby, 29, also known as Heather Armstrong, of 602 Franklin Ave. Hobby/Armstrong was arrested by Lewisburg Police on March 5, 2008 during a two-county drug sweep conducted by the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force.

A photo of Heather Renee Rogers, 18, (now McCollum, 22) who was living in an apartment at 200 Tiger Blvd., was in the county jail's computer database because of an earlier charge alleging she'd been driving on a suspended driver's license. The mix-up occurred, in part, because of an old software system no longer used by the county.

At that time, Gidget Darnell, mother of Rogers, now McCollum, said her daughter didn't have a drivers license when she was stopped by police on Sept. 9, 2007, one day after her 18th birthday. Darnell's daughter had been a passenger in a vehicle driven by a one-legged man whose prosthesis malfunctioned. As a result, the teen became the driver.

Part of Poteete's right leg, his foot, and ankle, were lost during an industrial accident decades ago in Shelbyville at the Tyson Food plant, according to his brother, Willie, who spoke about his brother's death on that Tuesday morning last week when state and city law enforcement officers investigated the crime scene.

Heather McCollum was arrested Friday by Marshall County Sheriff's Detective Tony Nichols and booked in to the county jail at 5:08 p.m., public records show. Henley said McCollum made statements against her interests. The victim's other brother, Wesley Poteete, said McCollum confessed, and another individual said police have a signed confession.

State Bomb and Arson Section Special Agent Russell Robinson swore out the arrest warrants for McCollum saying she stabbed "Poteete multiple times causing his death (and) set fire to (his) residence ... to conceal the cause of his death."

Monday morning, Henley said police did not expect, at that time, that there would be another arrest in the case.

Reportedly, McCollum is the mother of three children and there are aspects of her arrest records at the jail that show she experienced domestic problems. Public records show an aggravated domestic assault charge in 2009, a charge of fraud to obtain medical assistance payments in 2010, violation of probation and domestic assault in 2011, and in 2012, charges of false report and probation violation.

On June 28, Heather Renee Rogers and Jason Clay McCollum, 28, both residing in an apartment at 724 Woodlawn Ave. were married by the Marshall County clerk in the County Courthouse Annex on Commerce Street.

McCollum and John Homer Poteete attended the same church where he was known to members as Mr. John or John Homer, as he was known among family.

"He was a nice man," said Mary Ann Greer, one of Poteete's tenants. Her daughter, Amy, said Poteete "would come by and laugh and cut up" and they'd talk about his family.

"He'd pick up the mail. There's only one mailbox" for the three dwellings owned by Poteete," Amy Greer said.

"A couple of months ago, he made a police report about tires being cut on both his vehicles," she said, but Henley discounted that as having any connection to Poteete's death.

"He was sweet. He was kind. He never met a stranger. He was a good person," Amy Greer said.

Mary Greer said, "He would take care of my flowers out there."