Three decades later, murder of North Carolina mother remains unsolved

Andrea Cavallier
·9 min read

A day before her youngest son turned two years old, Beverly “Jaye” Potter Mintz was busy planning his birthday party, and preparing for family to come visit them in Leland, North Carolina.

It was around 9:40 a.m. on February 23, 1987, when the 23-year-old got a call from her mother, Lorene Potter, letting her know that a man would be coming by Jaye’s house to look at a waterbed she had for sale. The classified ad had initially been listed in the local newspaper under Jaye’s number, but when the free offer had ended after a month, Jaye took out another ad using her mother’s number.

Jaye told her mother she had just sold the bed that morning, but her mother had already given the man directions to her house. Lorene told Jaye that when the man showed up later she would just need to explain to him that the bed had already been sold.

It was the last time Lorene ever spoke with her daughter.

Jaye Potter Mintz (Justice for Jaye Facebook page)
Jaye Potter Mintz (Justice for Jaye Facebook page)

A few hours around later, around noon, Lorene stopped by her daughter’s house and immediately knew something was wrong. The door was unlocked, which was out of character for Jaye, so Lorene let herself inside and was met with the sound of her youngest grandson’s cries.

She made her way to the bedroom where she discovered her daughter’s bound body on the waterbed. Jaye had been stabbed to death.

According to Lieutenant Israel West with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, Jaye had been raped, stabbed repeatedly and her throat had been slashed.

The brutal murder was a shock to the people of Leland, a small community nestled next to the beach town of Wilmington, North Carolina.

"I can't even explain how bad it's been,” Lorene told NBC affiliate WECT back in 2007. “I can't explain how bad it was the day I found her, either. It broke my heart.”

Jaye’s youngest son, Andrew, just a day shy of turning two, was at home during the ordeal, but was not harmed. Her other son, who was four years old, was with another grandmother at the time.

"All he could tell me is ‘Mean man hurt Mommy. Mommy cry,’” Lorene told WECT. "He didn't know she was dead. He thought she was coming back."

Scene at Jaye's house in Leland, North Carolina. (WECT)
Scene at Jaye's house in Leland, North Carolina. (WECT)

Left behind at the crime scene was a newspaper clipping of the ad Jaye had placed for the waterbed. Her listing was circled. Lieutenant West told Dateline investigators believe the clipping was left behind by the killer but the evidence has not led them to anyone.

Jaye’s sister Jill Watts told Dateline their mother Lorene passed away suddenly of a heart attack just a few months after her WECT interview in 2007. She was only 63 years old. Jill added that their mother felt guilty for having given the caller directions to Jaye’s house that day, something she lived with for the rest of her life as she worked tirelessly to find out who did this to her daughter.

“She lived with so much pain and guilt for the rest of her life,” Jill said. “Her heart was broken.”

Jill added that their mother had also planned to stop by Jaye’s house earlier than she did that day.

“She always said if she had gone by there earlier, maybe she could have deterred the killer,” Jill said. “She thought maybe things would have turned out differently.”

Jill was on her way from her home in Colorado to North Carolina for her nephew’s birthday party when her sister was killed. She didn’t get the news until she arrived.

“It was devastating,” Jill told Dateline. “One day we’re planning Andrew’s birthday party and the next, she’s just gone. We had plans. She had a life to live. It’s been a nightmare ever since.”

Jill told Dateline she tried to talk to her sister often after moving to Colorado with her family, but in the 1980s, it was expensive to make long-distance calls so the two wrote letters.

“She was kind-hearted and a good person and loved her kids,” Jill said, describing her sister. “I can’t think of anyone who didn’t like her. Why someone would want to do this to her is unimaginable.”

Jill told Dateline her sister was recently separated from her husband, who was stationed in Germany at the time of her murder. Jaye got a job as a waitress at a restaurant in nearby Wilmington and had started dating again.

Jaye and her family. (Justice for Jaye Facebook page.)
Jaye and her family. (Justice for Jaye Facebook page.)

A few months before Jaye’s murder, her cousin, Angela, moved into the house in Leland with her young daughter. Angela told Dateline Jaye received unwanted attention from several admirers around that time.

There was a man who would write “I love you, Jaye” in the gravel drive of their house. And the man who left a single red rose for her at the restaurant where she worked. But Jaye, with her quiet demeanor, was always kind to them.

But when the strange calls started, Angela was concerned. She said the calls began after Jaye placed the ad for the waterbed. The calls would be sexual in nature and the caller would taunt both Jaye and Angela, depending on who answered.

About a week before Jaye’s murder, Angela walked by her room and noticed that she seemed upset.

“She was lying on her bed and I asked her if everything was OK,” Angela explained. “She told me she had a dream about a strange man trying to kill her. After she was killed, I couldn’t shake what she said. It’s like she knew something was about to happen.”

Lieutenant West has been on Jaye’s case since 2016, but tells Dateline investigators with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office has been actively working on it since her murder.

“It’s Brunswick County’s goal to solve this case,” Lt. West said. “And to get closure for Jaye’s family.”

Lieutenant West told Dateline that a number of people have been questioned extensively over the years, but there hasn’t been any evidence connecting anyone to Jaye’s murder. He is hoping the test results on DNA collected at the scene will eventually lead to some answers with the help of advancements in DNA technology.

What has baffled investigators and Jaye’s family is how the killer was able to get in and out of the house without anyone noticing him. The family told Dateline that Jaye’s house was situated on a main road and that people were often out and about in the neighborhood.

In 2000, Jaye’s story was featured in USA Today and hundreds of law enforcement officers across the country called Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, saying they were dealing with a similar murder. Lieutenant West told Dateline that possible connections to these murders were investigated and while several women were murdered in a similar way, no evidence led to the killer.

At this time, there are persons of interest in Jaye’s murder, according to Lt. West, but no one has been publicly named.

When Renee Braswell found out her cousin had been murdered, she assumed the killer would be caught that same day.

“I just can’t believe that I’m still sitting here, 34 years later, hoping for the killer to be caught,” Renee told Dateline. “Thirty-four years…”

Renee Braswell spent most of her life in Leland with her cousin, Jaye. About a year apart in age, the two were inseparable.

“We did everything together,” Renee told Dateline. “We rode horses and we could talk for hours and hours about everything.”

Renee and Jaye spent their time riding in horse shows and just for fun on the trails behind their homes.

Renee remembers how people who were meeting Jaye for the first time would ask why she was so quiet and if she ever talked.

“That always makes me laugh because my cousin talked my ear off,” Renee said. “Yes, she was quiet and shy, but once you got to know her, you really got to see her personality."

Renee was living in Dallas, Texas when her cousin was murdered. But she visited often and had been there for several weeks before she left to go back home on February 14, 1987.

The cousins ignored their phone bills and managed to call each other several times a month. But the day before Jaye was killed, Renee missed her call.

“I was sick in the bed, so I told my friend who answered the phone to just let her know I’d call her back,” Renee told Dateline. “It’s my biggest regret. Why couldn’t I have gotten out of bed to talk to her? You just never think something like this will ever happen.”

After getting the news from her mother the next day, Renee continued to call home for updates.

“I just knew they would catch whoever did this right away,” Renee said. “I must have called 10 times that day. The hours became days, the days became weeks and years and before we knew it, 34 years had passed. And still no answers.”

Jaye’s sister and cousins told Dateline they believe the person who would do something so horrific to Jaye would do it again to someone else.

“It all seemed very calculated,” Renee said. “He knew what he was doing. I just fear he did it again. And after all these years, who knows how many more times this happened.”

This week marked 34 years since Jaye’s murder and Lt. West continues to stay in contact with the family as he delves into the 22,000 page case file.

“We don’t consider Jaye’s case a cold case - it’s just unsolved,” Lt. West said. “I put as much energy and care into her case as I would want if it were me, or someone I loved.”

Lt. West told Dateline he believes there’s a chance any case, especially Jaye’s, is solvable and encourages anyone with information to call the sheriff’s office.

“We just need that break,” Renee added. “That break that will finally get justice for Jaye and peace for us. We just don’t want her to be forgotten. She was so beautiful inside and out. She was a wonderful mother, a great friend and we miss her dearly.”

Jaye’s family created a Facebook page “Justice for Jaye” where they continue to make a plea for anyone who may have information that could lead to a break in the case to come forward.

“She didn’t deserve to die like that. No one does,” Jaye’s sister told Dateline. “We’re just trying to hold out hope for an answer to why this happened to her. Someone knows… all they have to do is come forward.”

Anyone with information that could help solve Jaye’s case is asked to call Lieutenant Israel West with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office at (910) 253-2777.