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Murder Suspect On The Patio

Family tries not to panic as police surround their home

There was a standoff in Columbus Township on the evening of Wednesday, June 17.

Pennsylvania State Police surrounded the Route 6 residence of Blair and Sabrena Miller after a suspect wanted for attempted homicide — and later connected to at least two homicides — was seen entering the house.

The Millers knew Cody Potthoff.

He had been a friend of their daughter, Cassandra, years ago, and had stayed in touch.

They said he was no longer welcome at their home when they discovered he was into drugs.

He had respected that rule until two weeks ago.

“He pulled in and my daughter said, ‘that’s Cody,'” Sabrena Miller said. “He was in distress and crying.”

She approached him in that red pickup truck. “You didn’t have a very good day,” she said, not having any idea of the events of the day.

“No ma’am.”

She asked Cassandra if she would be ok if she left.

“Yeah.”

Before she left, she quietly took a picture of Potthoff and the truck’s license plate. As she left, Sabrena made a call to police and sent that picture along.

“I know he always has warrants,” she said. “I knew he didn’t have a license. I knew he didn’t have a pickup.”

It was 5:22 p.m.

Sabrena didn’t want him at the house, but she didn’t know he represented a significant threat.

“We didn’t know he was wanted,” she said.

She also didn’t know that her daughter was already protecting her.

Cassandra was talking to Potthoff. She had tried to be a friendly voice, one that provided him with good advice in the past.

Right away, “he told me that he shot seven people and killed a couple of them,” she said. “It was really traumatic hearing somebody say that. I didn’t tell my mom that.”

He had a gun, she said.

She let her mother drive away, knowing that telling her could put everyone at risk, including Cassandra’s unborn baby.

“He said, ‘I really need a hug,'” she said. “There were a million things running through my head.”

He told her there was blood in the truck and asked if he could wash.

“He asked if he could jump in the pool,” Cassandra said.

She told him no.

She was trying to keep the situation under control and walked with him from his vehicle to the back patio.

“He was counting money, doing drugs… his gun’s right here,” she pointed to a spot about 10 feet from a back door. “I’m trying not to panic.”

They saw a police car heading east on Route 6 and lost sight of it as it moved in front of the house.

“He saw that the trooper pulled up the driveway,” she said. “He ran in the house.”

The trooper saw Potthoff run.

“I put my hands up,” Cassandra said. The trooper was yelling, asking her about the man. “I didn’t say a single word. He could have shot me in the back.”

When she got to the car, and relative safety, she started talking to the trooper. “He put cuffs on me,” she said.

She was placed in the cruiser and left there for two hours, she said.

No one saw Potthoff leave the residence.

Police started arriving in numbers, eventually surrounding the house.

They remained for 12 hours.

The family was not allowed to get back home due to the circumstances.

At 4:30 a.m., Blair, who was at a neighbor’s house, counted 26 shots. They learned later that those were tear gas canisters being fired, not normal gunshots.

Potthoff was not in the house. He had left through a front door, crossed Route 6, gone through a field and a swamp, and arrived at a neighbor’s home where he allegedly stole another vehicle.

He was found later that day at a homeless shelter in northern Warren County.

Potthoff, 25, of Erie, faces numerous charges over five different dockets.

Among the charges are two counts of criminal homicide, a first degree murder and a second degree murder, attempted homicide, kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault, three counts of robbery, two counts of burglary, four counts of theft, three felony firearms violations, receiving stolen property, flight to avoid apprehension, and fleeing law enforcement, and numerous misdemeanor and summary charges.

A preliminary hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday has been continued.

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