Man who killed woman and baby to avoid child support gets life term - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Man who killed woman and baby to avoid child support gets life term

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Bonita man who strangled his 10-month-old son and the baby's mother because she was pressuring him to admit parentage was sentenced today to consecutive life prison terms with no possibility of parole.

Dennis Potts, 25, was convicted Sept. 10 of two counts of first-degree murder in the July 26, 2006, deaths of 22-year-old Tori Vienneau and their child, Dean Springstube.

Judge Bernard Revak, who has worked in the criminal justice system for nearly 45 years, said the case "cried out" for consecutive sentences.

"This case stands at the top of the list of cruel, uncaring, brutal (crimes) ... with the gravest amount of malice that I have ever seen," the judge said.

Revak said he hoped Potts would never be released from prison.

Deputy District Attorney Per Hellstrom called Potts "amoral, selfish and vindictive."

"This man executed his own son," the prosecutor said, calling the murders of Vienneau and her child "one of the most evil acts this community has ever seen."

The prosecutor said Potts caught Vienneau off guard by telling her they were going out to dinner in La Jolla. Once in her apartment, Potts strangled her and then strangled the child in his crib, the prosecutor said.

"This is not a crime that this man should ever be released from prison," Hellstrom told the judge. "He should spend the rest of his life in a cage."  

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 man who the defense claimed was the real killer, Daniel Moen, couldn't have committed the crimes because he was at work, the prosecutor said.

Besides, Moen cared for Vienneau and loved her baby, Hellstrom said.

Moen's sister, Breanne, told that judge that her brother was "hit hard" by the murders of his best friend and her son.

"Daniel took it to heart to help his friend out," his sister said. "Dean was Daniel's buddy."

Vienneau's father, Roy Herroz, said Potts' goal was murdering his daughter and her baby and getting away with it.

"What kind of animal murders his own son?" he asked. "What kind of parents stand beside such an animal?"

Herroz said he lost not only his daughter and grandson, but his job and his wife as he knew her before the murders.

"She is heavily medicated just to get by," he said. "We're still together, but we're broken.

"Let Dennis Potts rot in his cell," he said. "That's where he deserves to be."

His wife, Dayna, said Potts' choice to kill her daughter and grandson "went beyond evil."

She said it had been hard for her daughter to ask Potts to take a court-ordered paternity test, but she needed child support.

"She was a single mother doing the best she could," Dayna Herroz said of her daughter.

She said she hoped a photo of her daughter and grandson in the casket together would hang in Potts' cell.

"My only other wish is that when Dennis does die, that he rots in hell for all eternity," she said.

Revak said Potts never thought investigators would recover the hard drive from his computer and discover that in the weeks before the murders, the defendant did Internet searches for "committing murder," "how to cheat a swab paternity test," "the best way to kill someone," "getting away with murder" and "getting out of child support."  

Potts kept the fact that he was the baby's father from his parents and fiancee.

"This case is really about choices, and the responsibility we bear for our choices," the judge said.

Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong told the jury that Potts did 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. 

Hellstrom told jurors 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 his son in his crib with a cord from a cell phone charger, Hellstrom said.  

Potts lied to police when he said a paternity test he took was legitimate, when in fact he had used his friend Max Corn's DNA to submit for the test, Hellstrom said.

Additional DNA tests done later determined that Potts was the baby's biological father.

Corn, also 25, was tried separately and convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice for lying to police about Potts' whereabouts and helping fake the DNA test.

Corn faces up to three years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 11.

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