Kelli Peters, 49, was the president of the PTA at Plaza Vista School in Irvine, California.
Her 10-year-old daughter, Syndie, was in fifth grade. Peters was also the volunteer director of the Afterschool Classroom Enrichment program at the school, and was always on campus. She had began working as a volunteer six years earlier and was the mum at school everyone knew.
It was an otherwise nondescript Wednesday when she heard a policeman at the front desk of the school, asking for her by name.
It was the beginning of the suburban crime in a gated Californian community reported extensively by Christopher Goffard in the LA Times that has gripped the US. The story is so full of twists and turns, of real life characters straight out of central casting the LA Times even serialised it.
Here we go:
As anyone who had a policeman asking for her, Peters panicked. She worried that something terrible had happened to her husband. Why else would a policeman be looking for her?
She was assured that nothing had happened to her husband. Rather, the policeman, Officer Charles Shaver, wanted to search her car. It was an unusual request in this The Truman Project city. Peters had deliberately settled in Irvine in Orange County, California due to its stress free living. It’s a planned and uniform city where the LA Times reports bars, liquor stores and homeless shelters had been “purged” and the small neighbourhoods adhered to lawn-length requirements and mailbox uniformity rules. It is ranked America’s safest city for its size.
Earlier that afternoon, Shiver had received a phone call from a man who said he had a daughter at the school. He told the police he was “I’m concerned one of the parent volunteers there may be under, uh, under the influence or, uh, using drugs. I was, I just had to go over to the school and, uh, I was, I saw a car driving very erratically.”
The policeman asked if he could search Peters’ car. With nothing to hide, she said “absolutely”.
He found a ziploc bag with 17 grams of marijuana in it, a pipe, 11 Percocet pills, and 29 Vicodin. It was more than enough to send her to jail.
Despite the evidence, Peters insisted the drugs were not hers. The policemen proceeded to drug test her, and indeed, the results came back clear.