With his sweet talk, tailored wardrobe and $225,000 ivory-colored Bentley, Reginald Potts Jr. was able to convince women that he was a catch and trick colleagues into believing he was a successful real estate investor they could trust.
Those who were caught in Potts’ web of lies were beaten, threatened and robbed — many unaware that their tormentor had been behind bars for most of his adult life.
Nailah Franklin, the most unfortunate of Potts’ victims, was brutally murdered when she learned the truth of his criminal past and wanted to end their romantic relationship.
On Tuesday, Cook County Judge Thomas Gainer Jr. sentenced the 38-year-old Potts to life without parole for asphyxiating the popular pharmaceutical rep.
“I know who you are Mr. Potts,” Gainer said harshly.
“You are a cold, calculating, conniving, coward of a con man. You must be punished.”
Then speaking to plainclothes sheriff’s deputies, the judge bellowed, “Take him away!”
The slight, bespectacled Potts showed no emotion after receiving the severest possible sentence.
But a clap or two could be heard from the benches where Franklin’s friends and relatives had sat for the duration of the unusual six-day sentencing hearing.
Last week, Potts vehemently denied stalking and killing Franklin in September 2007.
“I can’t ask for forgiveness for something I didn’t do,” Potts said.
Gainer sarcastically noted Tuesday that Potts must be the most “unluckiest” man in the world, given that he was spotted lurking in Franklin’s University Village condo a few days before she went missing and was the last person to be seen with Franklin before the 28-year-old’s decomposed body surfaced behind his brother-in-law’s vacant video store in Calumet City.
Potts’ and Franklin’s cell phones pinged off key locations tied to the crime, including Hammond, Ind., where Franklin’s car was found and Potts asked his friend, Hugh Echols, to pick him at a gas station up that fall, the judge stressed.
Gainer also read the “Adios” email Franklin wrote to Potts, in which she indicated she wanted nothing to do with him but was not too proud to admit that she once cared for him and thought she saw the potential for him to be a “beautiful” person.
Conversely, Potts reacted by leaving a sinister voicemail on Franklin’s phone, promising to “erase her ass” and make her “disappear.”
“You didn’t erase her, Mr. Potts,” Gainer said.
“She lives on in the hearts and minds of those who loved and cherished her.”
Gainer said he was sure Potts was devoted to his family and loves and misses his daughters but he also called him a “master manipulator” who choked his ex-wife and girlfriends when his temper got the best of him.
A few of Franklin’s tight-knit clan expressed relief over the murder case coming finally coming to a close eight years after Potts was arrested.
During the course of the nearly-decade long period, Potts’ switched lawyers and chose to represent himself before settling with a team of seasoned assistant public defenders. He also racked up assault charges for allegedly beating jail guards.
“This has been a long and arduous trial. Finally justice is served, and the monster who took my daughter’s life is sentenced,” one of her sisters, Lehia Franklin Acox, said, reading from a statement from Franklin’s mother, Maria Maner.
“He kept saying, do we know who he is? And yes, we know you are a convicted murder. This monster is a wart that has been removed finally from the face of humanity and will never have an opportunity to kill again.”
Another of Franklin’s sisters, Ashlee Allen, promised that “the greatest sister” in the world will not be forgotten.
“While today’s sentencing brings some relief, nothing can fill the hole that will forever be in our hearts since Nailah was snatched away from us,” Allen said.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said while it was frustrating to watch Potts prolong his trial because he knew how to “corrupt the system,” she said she was “happy” with the outcome.