For eight months, while Randy Potter remained missing this year, his family and friends searched for him high and low. They even hired a private investigator to find him.
This weekend, family members said they were shocked and hurt to learn the Lenexa man had apparently been dead the entire time, his body sitting in his truck in a parking lot at Kansas City International Airport from January to September.
Kansas City police found Potter’s body Tuesday when they were alerted to a foul odor coming from the truck. The body was so decomposed that investigators were not able to immediately determine the gender or race, but later identified it as Potter’s and said it appeared he died by suicide.
Potter’s relatives, along with their attorney and the private investigator, think the 53-year-old T-Mobile manager died soon after leaving home the morning of Jan. 17, the last time he was seen alive.
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On Friday the family held a news conference seeking answers about why Potter wasn’t found sooner.
Within a week of Potter being reported missing, his wife and niece said, they went to the airport looking for him. They said airport authorities told them that if Potter’s vehicle was in one of their parking lots, security officers would find it.
But the rest of the winter, and then the spring and summer, passed before someone finally checked the truck.
It was parked in the airport’s Economy Lot B, a short shuttle ride from the airport terminals, according to Joe McBride, a spokesman for the Kansas City Aviation Department.
“How is it possible, in America?” said Potter’s wife, Carolina. “A truck sitting there for eight months? He could have been found a lot sooner if everybody had done their job.”
The Potter family has hired Kansas City lawyer John Picerno to help them find out what went wrong, starting from when the family made a missing person report to the Lenexa Police Department to how the body remained unnoticed by airport authorities for so long.
“It’s amazing that he wasn’t found in June or July,” Picerno said. “Our goal is to find out what happened and why. What was done, what wasn’t done. And to try to make sure that this doesn’t happen again to somebody.”
Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez issued a statement about Potter’s death:
“The City of Kansas City and its Aviation Department express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Randy Potter. We wish them peace during this difficult time. We are working with all parties to determine the facts involved, including SP Plus, which manages the 25,000 parking spaces at Kansas City International Airport.”
In January, Potter’s disappearance was widely reported in local media, with Lenexa police circulating information in hopes of finding him.
Family members say that in those first days, they were left with no clue about where to start looking.
In the first week, Potter’s niece, Melissa Alderman, flew in from her Florida home to help with the search, recruiting volunteers to hand out fliers. She hit upon the idea that if Potter had traveled far from home, he might have gone to the airport.
Alderman, along with Carolina Potter and another relative, drove to KCI and started checking parking lots. They gave Potter’s license plate number to parking authorities, who said security checked the parking lots regularly, according to Alderman.
The three relatives also went to the Airport Police Division office where, Alderman said, an official told her that airport police had Potter’s information. She said the official told her that security routinely checked the license plates on the vehicles — even if a vehicle had only a rear license plate and was backed into a space, as may have been the case with Potter’s truck.
Alderman said the official told her that if Potter’s vehicle was in the parking lots, it would be found.
Knowing that she was so close to finding her uncle, but feeling she was failed by authorities, is maddening, Alderman said.
“Losing a loved one is hard. Losing a loved one to suicide is 10 times harder. Knowing that they sat there and baked for eight months — I can’t breathe,” Alderman said.
“How many thousands of people drove by the vehicle? How many people walked by?” she asked. “It’s disgusting. And it’s infuriating. It’s a total disregard for human life.”