Middle School Principal Who Hired Friend To Kill Pregnant Teacher Is Sentenced

A former middle school principal in St. Louis who hired a friend to kill a teacher who was pregnant with his child was ordered to serve two consecutive life sentences in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri announced Tuesday.

Cornelius Green, 42, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire in the 2016 deaths of 30-year-old Jocelyn Peters, who was 31 weeks pregnant, and the fetus, named Micah Leigh.

In his plea agreement, Green acknowledged he hired a childhood friend, Phillip Cutler of Oklahoma, to kill Peters, a teacher at Mann Elementary School in St. Louis who was in a romantic relationship with Green. Before her death, Peters believed that Green was divorcing his wife and was unaware that he was also in relationships with several other women, prosecutors said.

According to a sentencing memorandum, Peters was determined to keep the baby after she had previously had a pregnancy loss and then terminated a second pregnancy at “Green’s urging.”

A photo posted on Facebook of Jocelyn Peters.
A photo posted on Facebook of Jocelyn Peters.

During this time, Green was researching ways to hide abortion pills in oatmeal, according to the memorandum. Prosecutors said when that plan failed, he called Cutler, who “was financially down on his luck and needed money,” to plot the killings.

According to prosecutors, Green, a principal at Carr Lane Visual and Performing Arts Middle School in St. Louis, took money from a school dance team’s fundraiser to pay Cutler for his hitman services. Detectives found evidence that the two planned the killing over a series of phone calls and that Green sent Cutler a package that contained $2,500 in cash.

“He literally stole from children to pay for killing his own child,” Nicole Conaway, who was principal of Mann Elementary when Peters was a teacher, said in prosecutors’ news release.

As part of the plot to kill Peters, Green traveled to Chicago to establish an alibi and left Cutler with the keys to his car and to Peters’ apartment, according to his indictment.

Peters was making a list of guests for her baby shower when she was killed, the sentencing memorandum said.

Cutler drove Green’s car to Peters’ apartment on March 24, 2016, and entered the home using the key, according to the indictment. Inside, Cutler found Peters in bed and fatally shot her, using a potato to suppress the sound of the gunshot.

Green traveled back to St. Louis and called 911 to report her death, pretending to have no knowledge about what happened and lying to police, according to the sentencing memorandum.

“He lied repeatedly to police while trying to mask his involvement in the horrendous crime by getting Cutler and others to conceal evidence,” prosecutors said in the memorandum. “He attempted to evade detection of his crime at every turn throughout the investigation.”

In the sentencing memorandum from his defense, Green’s attorney said he accepted responsibility for his actions and hoped to use his background to educate other prisoners while he spent his life behind bars.

Cutler was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire in March. He was also given two life sentences.

Speaking at Green’s sentencing, Lacey Peters, the victim’s mother, called the crime “senseless,” local NBC affiliate KSDK reported.

“I’m not able to go visit Jocelyn,” Lacey Peters said. “I’m not able to hug my granddaughter. Life is not enough.”

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