‘We are not required to wait for her to injure a patient at work,” attorney Erin Sunseri told a judge. Representing the California nurses licensing board, Sunseri was trying to prevent Christena Potter doing any more work as a registered nurse, before the court system could convict her of felony assault for stabbing her boyfriend.
Christena Potter declared in court papers: “I am a respected Labor and Delivery Nurse at Tri City hospital, which all of my coworkers will vouch for.” Christena had filed paperwork asking for a restraining order against her live-in boyfriend, whom we will call Rusty. This was after the butter-knife incident, which happened in March of 2017, more than a year before her nursing license was suspended.
Christena and Rusty had been together six years by early 2017. Over the years they developed a habit of drinking and quarreling on Saturdays into the early morning hours of Sundays.
Rusty said it was a Sunday in February when they were arguing, “And she went into the closet and retrieved a gun and pointed it at me and told me to leave the house.” They were living in Christena’s house in Fallbrook on February 19, 2017. “I was afraid and left the house.” But he was able to overcome his fear, and he met with Christena some days later, because he wanted to “work things out.”
So they were together again, two weeks later, on March 5, 2017. Another Sunday. Rusty was again with Christena in her home, and they had been drinking and arguing. It got to be 4 am. “I didn’t want to continue the argument, so I locked myself into the bedroom. Somehow Christena gained entrance to the bedroom.”
Rusty’s statements are in court files. He said Christena went into the closet and got the same pistol. “She pointed the gun at me and told me that she would shoot me unless I left.” Rusty got out of bed and made it into the living room, but Christena’s 20-year-old son was there and he “confronted me, getting up in my face.” Rusty “pushed” the young man and then “Christena picked up a butter knife.” He claimed the enraged 45-year-old woman stabbed him with the blunt instrument. “I suffered lacerations to my left eye, my shoulder, and two on my stomach.” Forty-three-year-old Rusty escaped from the house. But he came back about five hours later.
It was daylight by then, about 9 am, when Rusty returned with his own two sons, 15 and 22. Rusty hoped to get some of his belongings. “Christena refused to let me into the house to get my clothes. She finally let me in, and I grabbed some items of clothes.” But Christena had called 911 and Sheriff’s deputies showed up. “They separated us and talked to both of us,” Rusty reported later. “After assessing the situation they arrested Christena on charges of domestic violence.”
The California Board of Registered Nursing found this incident during their research, and they declared Christena Potter’s actions to be “unprofessional conduct.” This was one of the justifications for suspending her license. Deputy Attorney General Erin Sunseri appeared in court and got a judge’s approval on July 17, 2018.
After she was arrested for the butter-knife incident, Christena quickly bailed out of jail. The next day, a Monday, both Christena and Rusty filed paperwork, each asking for a restraining order against the other. These statements in court files are dated March 6, 2017.
On the forms, Christena described Rusty as 5 feet 10 inches tall and 250 pounds. He was 43 years old then. Rusty said Christena was 5 feet 4 inches tall and 240 pounds. She was 45 years old.
On the form, Rusty said his relationship with Christena was: “used to live together and used to date.” He asked for protection for himself and his 15-year-old, “He is my son and a minor; he lives with me 50 percent of the time.” And he wanted a stay-away order to include his child’s school and his own 2017 Peterbilt 389 truck.
Rusty told the court: “I have knowledge that Christena Potter owns or has access to guns or firearms. She threatened me with a pistol on March 5, 2017 and was arrested.”
Christena Potter did write on her form that “guns were taken by police.” But most of her statements differed from Rusty’s.
Christena wrote: “I am not a violent person. I have been in a dysfunctional, violent relationship and would like to be protected.” She described Rusty: “He is regularly drunk and acts violent.” She claimed he called her vulgar names and threatened to kill her. She told the court that she was the one who called 911, “and because I did not have any bruises and he did, I was taken to jail.”
Both Rusty and Christena got Temporary Restraining Orders against each other. But neither person showed up for a hearing three weeks later, on March 29, 2017, so the judge did not renew the TROs.
I am selling my home
In her court paperwork, Christena claimed that Rusty created financial problems. She said he possessed a 40-foot dump trailer, and she was the one who had signed as “guarantor,” and the payments were delinquent. And “He sold a flat bed trailer financed by myself one month ago and did not pay the loan for the title. He owes Great Western Finance $7000 — and does not have the money.”
Christena claimed that she filed a fraud charge against Rusty because on March 5, 2017 he had taken her bank card and took $300 from her account.
Christena said she owned a home in Fallbrook, at 1336 Banyan Drive. “I am selling my home to pay for unauthorized credit card transactions of $20,000 that he made.”
She declared, “The home is mine, purchased privately. I own the home and pay the mortgage. The home is for sale, so I may pay debt he made.” Public records show that home sold on April 26, 2017, seven weeks after the butter-knife-stabbing incident, for $582,000.
A year later, in the spring of 2018, there was another drunken fight that started on a Saturday night. In May of 2018, Christena Potter and Rusty were living together again, they were in an apartment on Flower Lane in Vista, at that time. The fighting went on past midnight, a few minutes into Sunday morning May 20, and this time it was Rusty who phoned 911.
The San Diego County Sheriff released a statement describing what deputies found. “Christena Potter stabbed her husband in the chest with a steak knife after an argument at their home.” There is bodycam footage from deputies. “The victim was awake and alert when deputies arrived.” The Sheriff stated: “He was transported to the hospital for a non-life threatening wound to his chest.” Apparently, deputies were not that impressed with the steak knife still protruding from Rusty, but a doctor later said the knife was three inches deep into his torso and just one inch from his heart.
Rusty, 44, wisely chose to leave the steak knife in place and wait for hospital personnel to remove it, because he feared that he would bleed to death if the knife was removed.
Officers did not find the alleged stabber, “Christena Potter left the scene before deputies arrived.” The following day, Christena showed up with her private defense attorney at the Sheriff’s station in Vista. She was booked into jail on suspicion of attempted murder, and held without bail until her first court appearance on May 23, 2018.
Christena, 46, was charged with three felonies: attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and corporal injury to spouse. At her arraignment a judge set bail at $125,000. She paid a fee of $12,500 to All Aces Bail Bonds and she was at liberty the next day.
Although there is plenty of evidence, prosecutor Marnie Layon was hampered, because the victim declined to cooperate. The prosecutor said victim Rusty is not willing to testify, he refused to okay release of his medical records from Palomar Hospital, and declared that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if he is subpoenaed to testify.
Two months after the steak knife was removed, in July 2018, Rusty spoke to a judge. He requested that the stay-away order protecting him from Christena be modified to “no negative contact.” But the prosecutor expressed “grave fear” for his safety and she opposed that request; the judge kept the protective order as a “stay-away.”
Marnie Layon remarked on the record, that the DA’s office did not file charges after the earlier, butter-knife incident, in March 2017.
Five months after she was arrested for attempted murder, on November 6, 2018, Christena Potter took a plea deal that was offered to her: she would admit to felony corporal injury to a co-habitant and personally using a deadly weapon. The plea deal paperwork stated that she could get as many as five years in prison. However, on the day of her sentencing, December 11, 2018, the judge “suspended” any prison time. Judge K. Michael Kirkman ordered Christena Potter into three years formal probation. He also ordered that she should never possess any alcohol, and to participate in a 52-week “batterer’s program,” as part of her probation conditions.
Christena Potter’s attorney, Herbert Weston, declared that she was a “responsible person” except when alcohol caused her “to do irresponsible and criminal things.”
Judge Kirkman commented that “She is fortunate the victim survived all of this.”
Christena Potter is now 47 years old, and continues to be at liberty. Her attorney said she intends to get her nursing license reinstated