Defense wants admissions by man charged in Nassau County woman’s death thrown out

Shawn Whigham indicted on charge of 1st-degree murder in the death of Colleen Potts. He’s pleaded not guilty

Shawn Whigham file photo. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Attorneys for Shawn Whigham, the man charged with murder in the death of 73-year-old Colleen Potts, are asking for admissions made by their client during an interrogation to be thrown out.

Whigham has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Potts, whose body was found in a home on South 13th Street in October 2021. He was also indicted on a charge of armed burglary and armed burglary with assault.

The defense claims Whigham’s rights were violated during the interrogation and that what he said to investigators was coerced.

Attorney Gene Nichols, of Nichols & Pina LLLP in Jacksonville, is not affiliated with the case. He spoke with News4JAX to offer his legal opinion on the motion.

“The argument in this case is that the officers, the detectives involved in this initial interrogation should have advised the defendant of his Miranda rights long before he was actually advised of those rights,” Nichols said.

Fernandina Beach police say Whigham admitted to the crime, saying he went into the home to steal, when he encountered Potts.

According to his arrest report, police say he confessed to shooting her, grabbing her purse and taking off.

In the court documents, the defense claims that police threatened Whigham’s wife, her job and her home.

The defense’s motion cites lines from the interrogation, including statements made by a detective:

Whigham: I’ll tell y’all anything you want to hear, you just have to leave her alone? Because she ain’t have nothin’ to do with nothin’.

Detective: “You said it was an accident.”

Whigham: “I just said the because y’all want me to say that. Y’all goin’ to put this on me regardless of whatever I say it don’t matter.”

Whigham: “...I’ll take the 15 years, it was an accident. Y’all want me to say it was an accident.”

“The question in this case is, however, was he forced to give statements? Was the situation such a nature that he didn’t really have a choice?” Nichols asked.

Community members say Potts was pet sitting at the home where her body was found.

Whigham’s attorneys have said there is no “physical, forensic, digital, direct, circumstantial or eyewitness evidence” that connects Whigham to Potts’ death.

A motion hearing in the case is set for Wednesday afternoon.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.