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Mother of slain school teacher – “It will never be any kind of closure”

ST. LOUIS – A former St Louis principal faces the death penalty in the murder of his pregnant girlfriend.

Cornelius Green is accused of hiring a hitman to kill Jocelyn Peters, who was a teacher at Mann Elementary School.

In court filings Thursday, prosecutors called the murder "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman.” Copies of the decision were filed Thursday with the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court and sent to Green’s defense attorney Scott Rosenblum.

Jocelyn Peters, 30, was seven-months pregnant at the time of her murder. Her mother, Lacey Peters, said the recent announcement brings some relief to the family.

"It will never be any kind of closure. It’s not one day that I don’t think about her. But I know with faith I will see her again,” she said.

Green, 34, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He was the former principal at Carr Lane Visual & Performing Arts Middle School, near downtown St. Louis. According to the St. Louis Public School District, he worked for them since 2002. Green has held various positions as a teacher, assistant principal, and a principal.

Green was also charged with two counts of stealing more than $500.

Authorities said Green paid his childhood friend from Oklahoma, Phillip Cutler, $2,500 to kill Peters and their unborn child. Cutler was arrested over the summer and charged with the murder.

"When a parent loses their child, it’s never really any closure. You cope, but it will never be any closures," Lacey Peters said.

Court records indicate Cutler and Green were childhood friends and Cutler was visiting in St. Louis the week Peters was murdered. Prosecutors said they’ll also seek the death penalty against Cutler.

Jocelyn Peters was found fatally shot in her Central West End apartment in March 2016. Her mother said the family remains heartbroken, but that Jocelyn’s memory will live on.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

Today, we notified the courts of the state’s intention to pursue the death penalty against defendants Cornelius Green and Phillip Cutler for the 2016 murder of Jocelyn Peters and her unborn child.

Only a handful of death penalty cases have been pursued in the past five years by this office. Pursuing the death penalty in a criminal case requires serious thought and reflection. It is not a decision that I make lightly.

Given the egregious nature of this crime and the total disregard for human life displayed, we believe that the conduct of both defendants warrants the most severe approach to this case under the law.