Accused Killer Keith Pottorff Takes the Stand in His Own Defense
Testimony has wrapped up in the murder trial of a Town of Cuyler man accused of strangling his wife to death last July.
Prosecutors finished up their case Tuesday morning in connection with trial of 44 year old Keith Pottorff; he stands accused of murdering his wife 53 year old Janet Pottorff at the couple’s home on Dog Hollow Road back on July 17th, the woman’s body was found three days later in a shed behind the house. County District Attorney Mark Suben closed with testimony from State Police Investigator Richard Prunier who outlined the events before and after the murder and illustrated why police believed Keith Pottorff was the only suspect in the death.
In a surprise move Tuesday afternoon Keith Pottorff took the witness stand to tell his side of the story. During questioning from his Defense Attorney Pottorff talked about his relationship with his wife, he admitted that their 7 year marriage had been rocky mostly because of his relapse into alcohol and drug abuse. Pottorff admitted that back in 2001 he had taken Janet’s vehicle and checkbook and she pressed charges that ultimately sent him to prison. Despite the theft they were married in 2005.
Pottorff said the couple’s relationship became strained after he reestablished contact with his brother Andrew and resumed using alcohol. Pottorff said he and his wife would fight after he gave his brother money, Pottorff said Janet did not like his brother and at one point he moved out the house and lived with his brother. Later Pottorff told jurors that Andrew resented the time he spent with his wife and often encouraged him to come party with him.
Pottorff talked about the last day his wife was seen alive, he admitted to smoking crack that day and then picking her up late from work, Janet was upset with him and they argued all the way home. At some point Keith informed her that he was going to the Grass Roots Festival in Trumansburg and he claims in a fit of anger Janet threw her jewelry and her checkbook at him and told him if was going to abuse drugs and blow money he might as well take it all. Pottorff says he left the house that night and picked up his friend Santo Oliver and other, he then cashed a check at the Gable Inn from his wife’s bank account. The group then traveled to Ithaca where Pottorff bought his friends tickets to the music festival and psychedelic mushrooms. Pottorff stayed in Cortland that night using drugs, despite telling police he had been at home that night.
The next day he claims he called into work for Janet telling her employer she was sick because he knew she would not have a ride to work. Pottorff admitted he spent the day looking for drugs and withdrawing nearly $ 1 thousand dollars from his wife’s bank account to fund his drug binge.
Later in the day Pottorff and his friends including Santo Oliver and Nicole Willis went back to Pottorff’s house to prepare for the festival. Pottorff claims he had called his wife in sick to work even though it was her day off to see if she was at work because she was not at the house.
Pottorff said he believed she was staying with friends and that’s why she was not home or at work.
The woman’s body was found on Friday July 20th, her hands and feet bound and plastic bags over her head, a pathologist says she was dead since the 17th.
Pottorff said that the boot print found in the shed where the body was found was his because he was in there a few days prior. Pottorff also told jurors that loved his wife and would never hurt her.
Prosecutors wasted no time casting doubt on Pottorff’s story, pointing out that Pottorff is an admitted liar who has never attempted to help police find her killer throughout the investigation.
Pottorff said he lied to police during the early stages of the investigation because he was high on drugs and was trying to protect his friends from getting in trouble.
Suben questioned how Pottorff could expect the jury to believe that even though the couple fought over his drug problems, that Janet would allow him to take her checkbook and jewelry and go to a drug festival. Pottorff claimed she let him go because he was headed to rehab the following Monday and that he planned to return the jewelry when they reconciled from their argument.
Suben asked if he murdered his wife, he said no. Suben asked if he thought his brother had murdered his wife, Pottorff said he would not say that.
Suben wrapped up his questioning by saying that Pottorff’s story defies common sense, Pottorff suggested that his story shows he wasn’t thinking clearly because he was under the influence of drugs, Suben shot back saying his story showed that he killed his wife.
Closing arguments are set for this morning, and then the case will head to the jury. If convicted of the most serious charge Pottorff faces 25 year s to life in prison.