In the sleepy Tennessee town of Mountain City, the ease of communication through social media became a double-edged sword. After exchanging insults and threats with a couple on her Facebook page, Jenelle Potter concocted an elaborate, but ill-conceived plan to kill off Billie Jean Hayworth and Billy Payne, the pair she was in conflict with. She sent her mother, Barbara, emails posing as a CIA agent who had Billy and Billie Jean under surveillance, and the psychotic woman convinced her mother that the couple were plotting to kill her daughter. Janelle then let Barbara persuade her husband Marvin, an ex-Marine in poor health, and Janelle’s boyfriend, Jamie Curd, that it was necessary to kill her rivals in the act of self-preservation.
Hayworth and Payne, who had recently become parents, were found dead from gunshots to the face in a gruesome murder scene, with Billy Jean holding their still alive 7-month old baby. Initially, only Marvin and Jamie were charged, but as the case unfolded, the Potter women joined the men behind bars, each with a life sentence of their own.
“Personally I pay no attention to what the people say. They are just jealous,” so claimed Pierre Cardin, referring to the villagers in Lacoste where he has seemingly taken over the small French town. In 2001, the fashion icon purchased the Marquis De Sade’s former castle, where the infamous debauchee had staged orgies and flagellations, often with women from Lacoste.
Soon after, Cardin set about acquiring more of the villa, accumulating 22 additional properties while peppering the area with futuristic sculptures and modern art exhibitions, in an attempt to shape it into a playground for the wealthy elite. When a plan to create a golf course on land just outside the village was revealed, irate locals driving tractors arrived at the opening of a theater festival he organized, threatening to disturb the event. To end the confrontation, Cardin was forced to abandon the country club project. “First he bought one house, then two, then three. Now, he owns most of the lower part of the village,” says one resident. “Before he came, I used to have friends here. Now there’s nothing. He has killed the village.”
In Marion, Alabama, a town of about 3,300, two Alabama families that had been fighting for years turned their quarrel into a full-scale riot. Initially, a fight at the local high school prompted the arrest of members of each family, as the three-year-old feud had been reignited when a window was shot out the night before. Relatives of the detained combatants converged on police headquarters, and there a melee ensued, with nearly 150 people brandishing weapons like tire irons, baseball bats, and broomsticks, screamed, threatened and beat on each other. Even the police chief was hit in the head with a crowbar. Eventually, six of the rioters were arrested, and law enforcement officers in riot gear were brought in from neighboring towns to keep the peace.
In July 2001 a Chinese man, deep in debt and involved in long-standing disputes with his neighbors, intentionally ignited a rival’s stockpile of explosives, killing at least 47 people, and injuring nearly 100 in the small farming village of Mafang, China.
The owner of the illegally stored weapons was initially suspected of being responsible for the massive blast, but after providing an alibi, suspicion turned to his neighbor Ma Hongqing, himself an illegal manufacturer of bombs. After a failed attempt to steal some of the contraband from the warehouse, Hongqing instead decided to blow it up and threw a detonator into the stash of deadly combustibles. Ma was found guilty and shot immediately following his public sentencing.
It’s a small, isolated town with a population of about 60 in rural Vermont, where everybody knows everyone else, and apparently, familiarity breeds contempt. Ironically named “Victory,” more than 80 percent of the townspeople don’t have jobs, but instead collect retirement or disability payments. There are no schools, or a town center with stores, a church or a post office, and no one can even remember what started the feuding that has raged in the area for 20 years. With most of the residents divided into two political factions that refuse to agree on just about anything, accusations of corruption are rampant; pets have died mysteriously, threatening anonymous letters are common, and no-trespass orders are doled out regularly. When asked if he could foresee a time when the hostilities might end, a resident answered “Yeah, I do,” he said. “When everybody is dead. Including me.”
Painfully slow internet service is something most people can relate to, so the tale of a curmudgeonly retiree who refuses to allow a telephone box on his property to be accessed by technicians to increase the neighborhood’s broadband speed, hits close to home.
The residents of Yelverton, Norfolk are miffed at Raymond Moreton, who created enough of a stir to garner national attention for taking a stand. Despite being offered nearly $1000 just to allow the work to be the performed, the 86-year-old holds firm. “(Whenever they arrive) I go and stand in front of them and won’t let them work on it. I feel that they are invading my personal property.” Fellow residents are fed up, and Moreton has even received a phone call threatening to burn his house down.
In December 2013, relations between opposing factions in the fishing village of Idinthakarai, India became so contentious, that they resorted to manufacturing homemade bombs to throw at each other. A dispute over fishing rights led to violent clashes between the groups that escalated to the point where seven people were killed by an accidental explosion while making homemade bombs. Later, when a village committee conducted peace talks between the rivals, a drunken fight broke out between two men, and more bombs were tossed. Luckily, a quick thinking villager defused the explosives by throwing them in water.
After feuding for 300 years, two Chinese villages finally buried the hatchet as they formally ended their dispute. The arguments between the residents of Yuepu and Wushan in the Fuji province began over water sources used to irrigate farmland and led to the opposing clans to forbid marriages between any villagers, and even their descendants.
In the past, if couples that were split between the two towns wanted to marry, they had to elope. Now, after an influx of immigrants and prosperity to the region have led to greater cooperation, the elders and officials from each town have finally relented, and weddings have received their official blessing.
It’s a town with 286 residents and 110 reserve police officers. Oakley Michigan’s Chief of Police, Rob Reznick, had a novel idea to raise money for the village coffers—he offered reserve police officer status in exchange for donations.
Reznick solicited almost $200,000 from what he refers to as a “dream team,” wealthy attorneys, athletes, doctors and others from the nearby Detroit area, who were also allowed to remain anonymous. In return, the officially confirmed donors received a badge, uniform and a permit to carry their gun anywhere they please. The arrangement has brought on dozens of lawsuits that have almost bankrupted the city, which has come to rely on the contributions.
Most of the legal actions have been filed by a couple, Dennis and Shannon Bitterman, who own a local tavern. They have claimed harassment, and abuse of power by the police chief, who also owns a company that collects and seizes money or property from people on behalf of law firms. In 2015, they, along with some others in the divided town, successfully fought to have the list of auxiliary officers’ names released to the public, but the financial woes of the suburb continue.
While some small town disagreements can take on a humorous tone, in Marksville, Louisiana, a power struggle between the Mayor and the City Judge brought about the senseless shooting of a 6-year-old boy.
In the town of 5,500 residents, the two officials bickered for years, beginning when the newly elected mayor, John Lemoine, cut funding to the city court including the judge’s salary. In response, Judge Angelo Piazza III added to the city’s force with some questionable hires and expanded their duties, using them to collect funds directly through ticketing. During a high-speed chase, a pair of the hires, one of whom had a personal dispute with the driver of the fleeing vehicle (who was unarmed), shot at the car 18 times, with a bullet killing the young passenger.