How Two California Parents Ended Up in Jail Over After-School Spat
Police say Jill and Kent Easter took a spat over pick-up to a new extreme.
— -- intro: It’s natural for parents to be concerned about their child’s wellbeing at school, but two California parents became so angry when their son wasn’t ready and waiting for afternoon pick-up that police say they went to a whole new extreme.
Jill and Kent Easter of Irvine, California, launched a vendetta Kelli Peters, then president of the PTA at the Plaza Vista School where their children were students. Not only did they want her fired from her unpaid position, but also sought to banish her from ever working in the school district again.
Their plan eventually caught up with them and resulted in criminal charges. Scroll through to find out what happened:
quicklist:1title: An After-School Pick-Up Turns into Fighting Wordsmedia:28250086text: Attorney and part-time author Jill Easter arrived at Plaza Vista School on Feb. 17, 2010 to pick up her 6-year-old son from after-school activities, which on that day was a tennis lesson.
Kelli Peters, shown here in an interview with "20/20," was a parent volunteer who ran after-school activities at Plaza Vista. She said Easter was late and there was a brief delay where she realized the 6-year-old boy was left outside waiting with his tennis coach in the back of the school instead of being brought to the usual pick-up location in the front.
“She thought her son had been crying because the tennis coach had done something to him, and the fact was her son was crying because she was late to pick him up, in my opinion,” Peters said. “I said, ‘He didn’t line up fast enough. Maybe he just walked slow.’”
But Jill Easter, and later her husband Kent Easter, also an attorney, became very offended by Peters using the word “slow.”
“I believe Mrs. Peters said, ‘You’re being slow,’ like falling behind in line, and I think the Easters took it as [Peters was saying] their son was being mentally slow,” said Officer Charles Shaver with the Irvine Police Department.
quicklist:2title: A Spat Over After-School Pick-Up Escalatesmedia:28249783text: After the spat over their son’s pick-up, Jill and Kent Easter launched a vitriolic campaign against Kelli Peters.
They wrote a letter to the school principal, which they also handed out to parents in the school parking lot, that accused Peters of purposefully leaving their son locked out of the school and unsupervised. They blamed her for causing him to have anxiety attacks, and demanded that she be fired.
“They attempted to have me removed from the school, removed from any Irvine school, never to volunteer again,” Peters said, “Banished. Completely banished.”
The school launched an investigation that found Peters blameless, so Jill Easter decided to take her to court.
“[They] filed lawsuits against me... a restraining order. She told the judge that I tried to kill her and that I was stalking her. … I mean they just went on to torture me for a really long time,” Peters said.
quicklist:3title: A Mysterious Call to Police Over an ‘Erratic Driver’media:28259042text: A year went by as Peters and the Easters battled in court. Then, on Feb. 16, 2011, the Irvine Police Department received a call around 1:15 p.m. on a school day, reporting an erratic driver at the Plaza Vista School. The person on the phone said his name was “Vijay Chandrasekhar,” and he was concerned about the welfare of his child, who he said attended the school.
A man tells the dispatcher, “I’m concerned one of the parent volunteers there may be under the influence or using drugs... I just had to go over to the school and I saw a car driving very erratically.”
The caller gave a description of the car, a white PT Cruiser, and said the volunteer’s first name was “Kelli.” Officer Charles Shaver with the Irvine PD was dispatched to the school and found the car in the parking lot.
“The caller that indicated the erratic driving also said there was a potential that the driver put drugs or pills behind her seat,” Shaver said, “So, I went to the driver’s side and looked in the window... There was a large bag of marijuana that was protruding out of the seat pocket, behind the driver’s seat.”
quicklist:4title: ‘Please Put the Drugs Away ... They’re Not Mine’media:28249938text: Officer Shaver went into the school to find the PT Cruiser’s owner, and discovered it belonged to Kelli Peters.
Peters said when the officer first came in, she panicked, thinking something had happened to her husband. But it then became clear the officer was inquiring about her.
“And he said, ‘Somebody said, after they saw you driving erratically, that you put drugs in the backseat of your car,’ and I was like, ‘there’s no way… they’re lying to you,'" Peters said.
Shaver said Peters began crying hysterically as the police searched her car and pulled out a large bag of marijuana, a bag of Percocet and a bag of Vicodin. She begged police to believe that the drugs didn’t belong to her.
"They put it up on top of the police car for everybody to see, which was really hard, because I kept thinking ‘my daughter’s getting out any minute.’ ... And I’m just thinking the whole world is looking at this right now … no one’s ever going to get this image out of their head,” Peters said. “I said, ‘Please put the drugs away. You’re going to find out they’re not mine and you’re going ruin my life anyway.’”
Peters was further questioned and given a sobriety test, which she passed. When Officer Shaver asked if there was anyone she knew who would go after her, Peters told him, “Jill Easter.”
quicklist:5title: Police Suspect Kelli Peters Was Framed media:28249658text: Police searched Peters’ home and conducted DNA tests on her and her family. The results showed zero evidence of the Peters family’s DNA on the drugs found in Kelli Peters’ car.
She was not charged with drug possession and police opened an investigation into the drug planting. They traced the call made to the Irvine Police Department to a hotel business center in Newport Beach, California, about 11 miles from Irvine. They watched the hotel surveillance cameras from the date and time the call came in and saw Kent Easter walking into the hotel. Kent worked for a law firm located next door to the hotel where the call was placed.
Police also discovered that drugs found in Peters’ car showed the Easters’ DNA on them. Cell phone records, prosecutors said, also showed that the Easters’ phones pinged a tower near Peters’ home the night before the drugs were planted.
quicklist:6title: The Easters are Charged media:28250459text:Kent and Jill Easter, shown here in their police booking photos, were charged with false imprisonment for tricking police into apprehending Peters. Jill Easter pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 120 days in jail on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Kent Easter pleaded not guilty but his trial ended in a hung jury -- 11-to-one in favor of a guilty verdict. He was again tried this past September.
In court, Kent’s attorney painted his client as a husband with no backbone -- a bumbling boob doing his wife’s bidding. A “honey-do” email from Jill to Kent was entered into evidence. In the email, Jill gives Kent a long list of assignments, including exhausting the criminal code against Peters and filing suits against the school district, the school and others who might be connected. She wrote he had 24 hours to complete them.
On Sept. 10, 2014, Kent Easter was found guilty and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.
Both Jill and Kent Easter have since been released, but declined to talk to ABC News’ “20/20” for this story.
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