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Daughter tries to deal with parole of her father’s killer

Joe Tucker with his daughters Suzanne (left) Karen 1970. | Submitted photo

Joe Tucker with his daughters Suzanne (left) and Karen in 1970. | Submitted photo

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Updated: February 7, 2014 6:16AM

As we looked back on the Faces of 2013 over the past month, one of the more compelling in my mind is that of Suzanne Potts, a young mother who is working hard to bury the pain of her childhood in Kendall County.

Potts contacted me from her home in Virginia in the spring of last year to ask for help in her crusade to keep a killer behind bars.

Dennis Orr, a Lake Holiday man sentenced to life in prison for the 1988 murder of her father, Plano businessman Joe Tucker, was scheduled to go before an Idaho parole board sometime in July. And she was adamant Orr should serve out his entire sentence, despite the fact he was eligible to be released after serving 25 years.

Potts already had established a website and was collecting letters to send to the parole board. Telling her story to an audience who once knew and loved her father, she hoped, would prompt others to join her quest to deny Orr his freedom.

Unfortunately, those attempts were not successful.

Her father’s killer was paroled on July 9 and released from prison on a Friday, the 13th of December.

“Needless to say,” Potts told me recently, “the day was emotional for me and the rest of the family.

“As with the past 25 years of our lives,” she continued, “we will make it through this with the guidance of Dad’s memories and love that he showed us all.”

Potts, only 14 at the time of the murder, harbored a close affection and rosy picture of her father that was not necessarily shared by all. She described Tucker, a member of the Aurora Iron Workers Union and First Methodist Church in Plano, as a “friend to all.” But the 36-page police report, and recollections of then-Kendall County Assistant State’s Attorney Jean Fletcher, painted a darker side to Tucker, who owned rental property, a bar and trucking company in the area. He was involved in bar fights, drugs and guns, said Fletcher, that led to bad blood between him and Orr, who eventually shot and killed Tucker at a hunting campsite near Powell, Idaho.

Also convicted was Tucker’s former sister-in-law Karen Tucker, who served a year for her part in the murder.

Potts also described her father as a “larger than life” character. But mostly, she insisted, he was “an excellent father I still miss every day of my life.”

And the fact his killer could be freed brought back a hurting child’s determination to right a wrong, even one that happened so long ago.

“My main purpose in life is to keep Dennis Orr in prison,” she told me last summer

Which is why she admits his release “has opened many wounds” and that her “family would struggle” over the holidays, knowing Orr walked out of prison and would celebrate the arrival of 2014 as a free man.

But Potts — a wife, working mom and recent college graduate with a degree in business — says she still believes in justice. On her website set up to keep her dad’s memory alive, she wrote: “I want to believe that whatever made the parole board choose this, they did this in the best interest of our family … or at least that is what I am trying to believe.”

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