Posted 11/12/14 (Wed)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
A brother and sister are facing three felony charges and one misdemeanor charge in McKenzie County for the kidnapping of their uncle, Robert Gross, of East Fairview, N.D.
According to the McKenzie County State’s Attorney office, Tom Potter and his sister, Sandra Potter, are awaiting extradition to North Dakota. Tom Potter is in custody in Yuma, Ariz., while Sandra Potter is in custody in Yellowstone County, Mont.
Law enforcement became suspicious of the Potters following a Sept. 2 investigation on the Gross property related to other individuals who had been criminally charged in McKenzie County.
During the investigation, it was learned that Gross was living in a trailer house on the property with no running water and in deplorable conditions. Because of the foul smell and awful living conditions of the home, law enforcement would not enter the trailer house.
In the course of the investigation, it was also learned that Sandra Potter was the caregiver of Gross, her uncle.
Family members, including Sandra Potter, had described Gross as having the mental capacity of a 12-year-old boy. Gross was a person over the age of 60 and as evidenced by his living conditions and by Sandra Potter and other family members admissions, was incapable of adequately providing for his own health or personal care.
Court documents state that Sandra Potter, as the caregiver of Gross, has knowingly performed acts that have caused Gross’s life to be endangered, health to be injured, and his preexisting mental condition to deteriorate. Sandra Potter has done nothing to ensure Gross has the basics of living; no running water, no food other than canned chili, refrigerators with mold and not in working condition, dog feces throughout the residence, and deplorable living conditions, further deteriorating the physical and mental health of Gross.
Through further investigation, it was discovered that Sandra Potter was exploiting Gross and had her uncle sign over an oil well interest to her. It was also discovered that, along with the property and oil well interests, Gross had “loaned” Sandra Potter and Potter’s other family members in excess of $20,000.
None of these loans, ownership interests, or transfers of property, had been used for the benefit of Gross, as evidenced by his poor living conditions and his lack of medical treatment. Sandra Potter had used her position of trust, knowingly using deception and intimidation to have Gross sign over oil well interests, property in McKenzie County, and checks issued to people from Gross’s checking accounts.
On Oct. 28, 2014, FBI Special Agent Mathew Gibson, court-appointed co-guardians Audrey Uhrich and Angie Paulson, and McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department Detective Michael Schmitz went to meet with Robert Gross at his residence in East Fairview, N.D. When they arrived, they discovered Gross’s residence was padlocked and Gross had been taken from the property.
Sandra Potter was given notification of law enforcement’s intent to meet with Gross via a text message which she did not respond to. As Sandra Potter had done in the past, she removed Gross from the property in order to restrain him with the intent to prevent his liberation by law enforcement and his court-appointed co-guardians.
Sandra Potter was later contacted by Schmitz on her cell phone, but would not tell law enforcement the location of Gross. She stated that Gross was in a lot of pain, yet refused to tell law enforcement his location, or where he was going to seek medical treatment.
When law enforcement asked to speak with Gross, Sandra Potter stated that Gross was not with her at the moment. After pushing the matter of Gross’s location and well-being, Sandra Potter stated that they were staying with family in the Bowman, N.D., area.
Again, law enforcement expressed the need to talk with Gross or that he needed to be returned to his home immediately. Sandra Potter refused again to discuss Gross’s location, his well-being, and stated that she was not returning Gross to his residence.
Later that same night, it was discovered that Sandra Potter’s vehicle was at her residence in Worden, Mont., not near Bowman, N.D., as she had earlier stated.
Court documents also state, Tom Potter, Sandra’s brother, was with Sandra Potter when Gross was taken from his home without the legal guardians being notified. Tom Potter had Gross contact his guardians, but through his influence had Gross only discuss scripted answers.
On Oct. 31, 2014, law enforcement took Sandra Potter into custody in Wordon, Mont. However, Tom Potter and Gross were not present. It was found that he had taken Gross sometime prior to the arrest of his sister and headed south. It was reported that Gross was injured somehow with a cut on his head and Potter took him to a hospital in Wyoming.
Gross required stitches along with a CAT scan. It is believed that the hospital wanted to keep Gross for evaluation, but Potter took him from the hospital.
In a statement, the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office said Gross is in Yuma, receiving medical care at a hospital.
Charges that have been filed against the two suspects include Endangering a Vulnerable Adult, a Class B felony; Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult, a Class B felony; Kidnapping, a Class A felony; and Physical Obstruction of Government Function, a Class A misdemeanor.