When a grown man goes missing, one of the first places police normally look is the nearest airport parking lot.
So how can it be that eight months after T-Mobile manager Randy Potter’s distraught family reported his disappearance to the Lenexa Police and to authorities at Kansas City International Airport, his decomposed body was found right there in his truck in an airport parking lot?
Police didn’t ignore the case, but on the contrary spent “a few hundred man hours” on it. They came to believe 53-year-old Potter had left his family — yet somehow still never thought to check KCI parking lots. Which is how his remains were only discovered last week, after someone complained about the odor coming from the truck in the long-term parking lot north of the airport where he apparently committed suicide in mid-January.
“A detective was assigned that same day” that Potter was reported missing, said Lenexa police spokesman Danny Chavez. That was January 17, the day Potter left home for the last time. “There were a few hundred man hours put in on that case.”
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Lenexa police interviewed relatives, friends and co-workers, checked in with the U.S. Passport Office, the Internal Revenue Service and state highway patrols. But no, Chavez said, “we did not check the parking lots,” though “we were in contact with the airport authority within the week.” Did they not check because they assumed airport security would follow through and survey the lots?
“There was an assumption,’’ Chavez said, but there was also “no reason to look there any more than Arrowhead Stadium or Oak Park Mall.” Police did check to see if he’d booked a flight out of the airport and found that he hadn’t. No one ever gave them any reason to think that Potter was ill or suicidal, the police spokesman said, and “multiple people said their opinion was that he had left. Left the family.”
He had definitely left them frantic, and a week after he disappeared, his wife, niece and another relative went to KCI and gave his license number to parking lot security and the Airport Police Division. Officials assured them they’d find his truck if he’d parked there, because every lot is checked regularly. By regularly, did they mean annually?
The fact that there’s no limit on the length of time a vehicle can sit in long-term parking is an invitation to dumping cars there, and that does sometimes happen. And this is not even the first suicide in a KCI parking lot.
In 1994, the body of 39-year-old Wayne H. Grosserhode was discovered in his car trunk in a KCI garage. According to a Star news story, it was the man’s wife who “told police to check the airport for his car. Police found the car Friday, but officers did not examine the vehicle because they thought the man might have left town.”
Five days later, Grosserhode’s wife checked the car herself.
All these years later, it was again the bereaved who hit on the idea of checking the airport. And that police do seem to have spent hundreds of hours looking for Potter without doing that might be most worrying of all.