A missing Kansas man’s body sat decomposing in his work vehicle for eight months in an airport parking lot 45 minutes from his home, causing his family to ask why no one found it sooner, PEOPLE confirms.
Randy Potter had been dead by suicide the entire time his family and police were searching for him, reports KMBC.
The body of Potter, age 53 when he was last seen alive on the morning of Jan. 17, was so decomposed in the vehicle parked at Kansas City International Airport that his gender and race were not immediately clear to investigators who later identified it, reports The Kansas City Star.
“What kills me the most was I was there … he could’ve been found the first week,” said his wife, Carolina, a flight attendant who said she searched the same parking lot where her husband’s body was located, according to The Washington Post.
Potter’s family held a news conference last Friday to demand accountability.
“I want whatever changes to come about from all of this to be permanent,” said Potter’s daughter, Nichole. “I don’t want for someone to have to sit there for as long as my dad did.”
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Lenexa, Kansas, police said Potter left his home there, about 45 minutes from the airport that is located across the state line and north of Kansas City, Missouri, around 7 a.m. on Jan. 17 and did not report to his job as a project engineer for T-Mobile.
A missing-persons flier said he was known to drive a white 2014 Dodge Ram and gave the license number — information that Carolina Potter says she shared with airport authorities, who assured her that if the vehicle was in one of their lots, it would turn up during a regular security sweep.
Potter’s family hired a private investigator to help with the search but directed his attention away from the airport after that assurance, Carolina Potter said.
The investigator, John Underhill, and Potter family attorney John Picerno said they believe Potter died the day he was reported missing, which means his body would have been sitting in the vehicle from Jan. 17 until it was discovered by police on Sept. 12, following a report of a foul odor, according to the Post.
The family was notified the next day, according to a Facebook post promoting the family’s months-long search.
“Every single entity failed my husband,” Carolina Potter said. “Every single one.”
When Randy Potter was reported missing, “there was not at the time of the report any indication that he was endangered or suicidal,” a Lenexa Police spokesman, Danny Chavez, tells PEOPLE. “He just had not shown up to work and family had not heard from him. There were no suspicious circumstances or foul place suspected.”
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The nearby airport “was never pointed to as a place that he might be, any more than the local mall,” he says. “It was never mentioned by anybody.” As a matter of course, however, within the first week detectives checked with the airport and other federal authorities including the U.S. Passport agency.
“One of the things we wanted to ascertain was, had he boarded any planes?” Chavez says. “We were advised that he had not, so we wouldn’t have had any reason to conduct a search at the airport, but we were in contact with the airport authorities.”
Picerno, the family’s attorney, could not immediately be reached by PEOPLE.
The airport’s public parking lots fall under the watch of the Kansas City Aviation Department’s Airport Police Division.
“The City of Kansas City and its Aviation Department express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Randy Potter,” the city said in a statement. “We wish them peace during this difficult time. We are working with all parties to determine the facts involved, including SP Plus, which manages the 25,000 parking spaces at Kansas City International Airport.”