When getting even leads to disaster

We know that people can act irrationally out of anger, reacting completely out of proportion to some real or imagined slight and doing dangerous and threatening things as a result. The most obvious examples are of road rage, but we also have cases of people harming and even killing others in domestic or neighborhood disputes. But in most of those cases, people are acting out of anger.

I came across this six-part story about a couple, two attorneys with high-paying jobs, completely over-reacting to what most of us would not have given a second thought, simply because a PTA volunteer at their son’s school had made a small mistake concerning their son. They cold-bloodedly set in motion an elaborate plan to destroy her.

Here’s how the story begins.

The cop wanted her car keys. Kelli Peters handed them over. She told herself she had nothing to fear, that all he’d find inside her PT Cruiser was beach sand, dog hair, maybe one of her daughter’s toys.

They were outside Plaza Vista School in Irvine, where she had watched her daughter go from kindergarten to fifth grade, where any minute now the girl would be getting out of class to look for her. Parents had entrusted their own kids to Peters for years; she was the school’s PTA president and the heart of its after-school program.

Now she watched as her ruin seemed to unfold before her. Watched as the cop emerged from her car holding a Ziploc bag of marijuana, 17 grams worth, plus a ceramic pot pipe, plus two smaller EZY Dose Pill Pouch baggies, one with 11 Percocet pills, another with 29 Vicodin. It was enough to send her to jail, and more than enough to destroy her name.

Her legs buckled and she was on her knees, shaking violently and sobbing and insisting the drugs were not hers.

The cop, a 22-year veteran, had found drugs on many people, in many settings. When caught, they always lied.

The story that unfolds from there is fascinating. It takes place in an upscale Orange County, CA town. If that same story had happened in a poor or black community, or the police officer had been a rookie, Peters would have been hauled off to jail and her life would have been ruined. But because she was not black or poor, and was fortunate that the police officer was a veteran who noticed that something about this case was off, and because the police department had the luxury of assigning many officers to investigate what many departments would have ignored because of its minor nature, the facts of this bizarre case gradually emerged.

It is a long story but I found it engrossing. It sheds an interesting, if disturbing light, on human psychology.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    They traced the call. It had been placed from a wall-mounted phone in the ground-floor business office at the Island Hotel, an elegant high-rise resort in Newport Beach.

    Mistake. Instead of using a real phone, they could have used a networked computer to place the call and spoof the caller ID.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    To their chagrin, the most anticipated ones — the 15 predawn texts — had been erased before the phones were seized.

    Doesn’t the phone company, or some 3 letter agency like the NSA, keep a copy of all texts?

  3. Mano Singham says

    The Easters do not seem to be particularly sharp in the way they carried out this plan. Perhaps they were not expecting the police to throw so much effort into solving this.

  4. flex says

    There are curious voids about the entire story, in particular the DNA of the Easters found on the pills, baggie, and pipe.

    Are we to infer that the husband, who’s DNA was reported to have been found on all three, was in the habit of using them? Were they something left over from their college days (only a few years before), or were the purchased for this frame-up, or where they regularly used?

    I can imagine a wealthy, high-powered, couple thinking that if Kelli Peters was caught with a bag of drugs, it would be embarrassing, but wouldn’t be devastating. That is, if the Easters had been in the habit of smoking the occasional joint, and even were caught, they would probably have gotten a slap on the wrist, a fine, and have been allowed to go without a stain on their record. They might have been unaware that not everyone has the same privilege as they did. It came off as a juvenile prank, with the Easters not having any clue as to how much pain they would cause. Even at the end of it, they seemed more aware of their own pain rather than the pain they caused to Peters and her family.

  5. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Can we end the second great American drug Prohibition already, and fully legalize all such drugs for consumption and sale (to adults) ? The first great American drug Prohibition failed, we recognized it, and we ended it. Let’s end it again.

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