By Susan Hardee Steger
December 2, 2021
Friends of homicide victim Colleen Potts, neighborhood residents, and interested citizens gathered in the Martin Luther King Center where Fernandina Beach Police Deputy Chief Jeff Tambasco held a Town Hall Meeting to provide an update on the Colleen Potts homicide investigation. Potts, a popular petsitter, was found dead in a South 13th residence on October 24, 2021. An alert neighbor called 911 after noticing a garage door opened and dogs running loose in the yard.
After reading an opening statement, Tambasco opened the floor to questions.
What was learned during Q & A?
Fingerprints, blood, and DNA were found at the murder scene and are to be processed at a private company. The reason for using a private lab, according to Tambasco, is to expedite the process and . . . the private company has a new process they use with a higher success rate.” Once received Tambasco expects about a 60 day turnaround but it could take up to a year.
‘We are looking at several different people, we’re just not at the point to release names or declare them a person of interest just yet.”
Investigators believe that “this crime occurred at that residence and only at that residence and there is a reason why and I can’t go into specifics as to what that reason is.”
Some items collected during the investigation were used in the crime itself.
“We have not confirmed anything was stolen . . . we believe there were things stolen. We are still working on that.”
We believe Ms Potts was not followed and no indication she had a stalker.
There is no coloration between the murder committed and any other case in the area.
When asked if Potts had a relationship with the suspect, Tabasco responded, ” that is an avenue that we are exploring at this time.”
Two recent break-ins in the neighborhood are not related.
We were able to track her whereabouts starting the day prior until the officers arrived on scene and provided us with an important investigative tool.
“We are comfortable saying there is no threat to the public.”
We feel confident we will catch the killer, clear this case out, and get justice for Ms. Potts
As Tambasco’s addressed to an audience of approximately 75, three detectives in the Fernandina Beach Police Department were seated next to him. In his remarks, he spoke of the progress made so far in the investigation.
What has been done:
25 investigative interviews.
Collected 85 pieces of evidence. All that evidence is being processed for DNA fingerprints, etc.
989 photographs have been taken.
Multiple hours of surveillance camera footage both from private residents and businesses in the surrounding area have been reviewed.
We have partnered with the Florida Dept of Law Enforcement Jax Sheriff’s Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, State Attorney’s Office and a private forensic laboratory to assist.
We have a large number of investigative leads that we are following up on.
A portion of Tambasco’s Opening Remarks:
“Some of you may feel that we are a smaller agency and do not have the resources to conduct a thorough investigation. I’m here to assure you that is not the case. The Fernandina Beach Police Dept has only one opened homicide case in the last 40 years and that case is reviewed regularly. Investigations of this nature often take time to solve. For example, Janet Robinson was murdered in 1987 and we solved the case in 2015, Ele Colborn was murdered in 2007 and the case was solved in 2012. In fact, the national average for clearing a homicide investigation is 54%
Here at the Fernandina Beach Police Department, we strive for 100% in everything we do and rest assured we will continue to work this case because we are the voice of Ms. Potts. And that is something we do not take lightly.
Some have asked if there is a public safety concern. Based upon our investigation and evidence gathered we do not believe there is a threat to the public. Year to date we have had 14 residential burglaries with only one that occurred after this incident and none have involved any type of violence.
As for your personal safety, based on evidence at the scene, we believe this is an isolated incident. However, we always encourage our community to take safety precautions, we never know a person’s intentions.”
If anyone has information that might help in the investigation, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Tambasco is the point of contact and may be reached at 904-254-3850 or via email at [email protected]
Crime Stoppers, 1-866-845-8477, offers an award for information leading to an arrest for those wishing to remain anonymous.
It was suggested residents keep outdoor areas well lit and purchase a surveillance camera if possible. For those who walk, try to do walks in the day, take a cell phone, be aware of your surroundings, and if walking during the evening, bring a flashlight. For those with garage door openers, it is recommended to take the opener inside the home or park the car in a garage.
A Go Fund Me account is available for those interested in donating funds for the purchase of a bench and to provide a donation to the Humane Society in memory of Colleen Potts.
The meeting ended with a round of applause.