By Jordan Schrecengost
NORTH EAST – A district judge has decided all but one criminal charge filed against a man accused of double homicide may proceed to court.
North East District Judge Scott Hammer on Wednesday ruled 37 of 38 charges filed against 25-year-old Cody Potthoff will be held for county court. Hammer dismissed one third-degree felony count of flight to avoid apprehension.
The charges bound over to court include murder of the first degree, murder of the second degree, criminal homicide, aggravated assault, abuse of corpse, robbery of motor vehicle, kidnap to facilitate a felony, burglary and fleeing or attempting to elude officer.
If convicted, murder of the first degree carries a mandatory punishment of life imprisonment or death. Murder of the second degree carries a mandatory punishment of life in prison.
Potthoff will now appear before a judge at the Erie County Courthouse on a date and time yet to be determined.
Potthoff is accused of killing two people – Ian Welden, 41, of Corry, and John Burick, 66, of Harborcreek Township – and stealing numerous vehicles during a two-day crime spree spanning two counties in mid-June. He continues to be held in Erie County Prison without bond.
Cassandra Gonzales, a former girlfriend of Potthoff, testified that he arrived at her Columbus Township residence on June 17 in a pickup truck, which investigators determined belonged to Burick.
Potthoff told her he had shot seven people, and she confirmed he stated he had killed people, according to Gonzales’ testimony.
Gonzales said Potthoff, who seemed to be on drugs, wouldn’t let her near the truck and told her not to look in there. Gonzales also testified that she knew Burick but not well.
Police allege Potthoff kidnapped Burick from his residence at gunpoint and later fatally shot him once in the head. Burick’s body was found on state game land in Greenfield Township.
Police recovered a shell casing matching the gun found with Potthoff at the top of a landing in his father’s house on Route 89 in North East where investigators believe Potthoff killed Welden on June 16.
The body of Welden was found in the trunk of a silver Nissan Sentra after Potthoff crashed it while fleeing from police after he sped away from an attempted traffic stop by an Edinboro police officer on June 17.
Potthoff was then the subject of a nearly 24-hour manhunt as he stole multiple vehicles while attempting to elude police.
Cameron Zimmerman, 24, of Union City, was identified by as an accomplice of Potthoff by investigators.
The Erie Times-News reported Zimmerman testified they drove to a remote Corry-area location and Potthoff told him to help move Welden’s body from a roadside ditch into the trunk of the Nissan.
Zimmerman said he and Potthoff had been using methamphetamine and bath salts and had not slept for about a week when they met up on June 12 and neither one slept after that, the Times reported.
In addition to Zimmerman, police allege Jessica Nye, 41, whose address is listed as homeless, and Benjamin Luczywek, 35, of Bear Lake, assisted Potthoff during his crime spree.
Nye and Luczywek each face counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution and tampering with physical evidence. Nye was also charged with abuse of corpse and so was Zimmerman.
Nye’s preliminary hearing was also Wednesday at Hammer’s office. Zimmerman’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19 and Luczywek is slated to appear in court on Aug. 13.
Potthoff was taken into custody at a Warren County homeless shelter on June 19 and police recovered a Raven Arms MP .25 caliber chrome pistol with pearl grips in the room where he was found.
Libby Rosequist, editor of the North East News-Journal, contributed to this report.