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Investigation Turns Up False Wall at Remote Cabin of Murder Suspect

March 21, 1994

ESTILL FORK, Ala. (AP) _ A false wall was discovered Sunday in the remote mountaintop cabin of a man suspected of 15 murders in six states.

″We’re not commenting on anything we found behind the wall,″ Jackson County investigator Chuck Phillips said. ″But, you know, why would anybody have a false wall?″

Digging continued at several of 15 potential grave sites around the cabin of Frank T. Potts, 50, who is being held without bond in Florida on an unrelated charge of sexual battery against an 11-year-old girl.

Authorities permitted two television cameras and a still photographer to enter the cabin for the first time. The investigation began nine days ago with the discovery of a 4-foot deep grave hiding the badly decomposed and nude body of Robert Earl Jines of Indianapolis.

Jines, who died of a blow to the head, was 19 when he disappeared in 1989. His family and police said he had been with Potts at his cabin near this tiny community.

Investigators said the 8 foot wide, 5 1/2 foot high false wall is made of two hinged panels that opened from the center out, like a cabinet, and is 8 inches deep. Authorities did not know of its existence before Sunday.

Potts was allegedly building an arsenal behind the false wall, said Jines’ father, Howard Jines. He said he learned of the wall from his son’s girlfriend, who has been questioned by Jackson County officials.

The media were allowed into the cabin after the FBI emptied the contents from the tin-roofed structure that Potts built on a 40-acre tract of land atop Garrett Mountain, a secluded spot in northeast Alabama near the Tennessee line.

Found inside the cabin were naturalist magazines and novels, along with other material the FBI is using to complete a profile of Potts, a migrant worker who was imprisoned in Florida on a sex offense from 1982 to 1988.

About 60 people, including inmates from the Jackson County Jail, dug under the supervision of state forensics experts at several of 15 potential grave sites identified by dogs trained to sniff out human remains.

The digging is being done both by hand and machine. The rocky landscape, which has worn the points off several shovels, is hampering the excavation. Authorities say they are confident they will find more bodies.

″We’ve got good information there’s something there,″ Phillips said. ″But it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. We have no idea how long we are going to be here.″

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Wells said Saturday that the investigation could take a year or more.

Florida officials say Potts is a suspect in a string of 15 murders in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New York. Police said Potts either knew or had been seen with some of the 15 victims.

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