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Press Release

Former St. Louis School Principal Sentenced to Two Consecutive Life Terms in Prison for Teacher’s Murder

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Ronnie L. White on Tuesday sentenced a former St. Louis middle school principal to two consecutive life terms in prison for hiring a friend to kill his pregnant schoolteacher girlfriend. 

Cornelius M. Green, 42, pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and one count of murder-for-hire in the deaths of 30-year-old Jocelyn Peters and her unborn child, Micah Leigh, in 2016. 

A jury in U.S. District Court in St. Louis in March found Phillip J. Cutler, 46, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, guilty of the same charges. Judge White sentenced Cutler last week to two consecutive life terms in prison. 

During Tuesday’s hearing, Peters’ mother, Lacey Peters, said Green was supposed to be Peters’ protector but became her executioner. “All she ever did was love him,” Lacey Peters said, adding “and she loved that baby so much.”

Peters’ cousin, Dedra Peters, said “Jocelyn had a light around her at all times,” and “touched the heart of anyone she came in contact with.” Peters’ death has left the “family empty and heartbroken,” she said.

Peters had miscarried before and terminated one pregnancy at Green’s urging, but was determined to keep Micah Leigh, according to a sentencing memo filed by prosecutors. But she mistakenly believed she was the only woman in Green’s life, and that Green was divorcing his wife. Peters did not know about the multiple other women, including at least one who was also being duped by Green into believing they were building a life together. She also did not know that Green was researching ways to secretly poison Micah Lee by crushing pills and hiding them in oatmeal or yogurt. When that plan failed, Green contacted his longtime friend, Cutler, and stole money from the dance team’s fundraiser at the school where he worked, Carr Lane Visual and Performing Arts Middle School, to pay Cutler. 

“He literally stole from children to pay for killing his own child,” said Dr. Nicole Conaway, the principal of Mann Elementary when Peters worked there. Dr. Conaway said she had to tell Peters’ class about her murder. “I will never forget the pain in their eyes,” she said. “This trauma will follow them for the rest of their lives.” 

Green and Cutler planned the murder in a series of phone calls and Green sent Cutler a UPS package containing $2,500 cash on March 7, 2016. On March 21, Cutler arrived in St. Louis. 

Green took a train trip to Chicago to establish his alibi for the murder, giving Cutler the keys to his Kia Optima and Peters’ apartment. 

On March 24, Cutler drove Green’s car to Peters’ apartment in the 4200 block of West Pine in St. Louis, let himself in using Green’s keys, and shot Peters in the eye using a potato as a silencer. Peters was working on baby shower invitations at the time she was killed. Green had Peters buy potatoes days before her own murder.

A still image from surveillance video at a store showing Cornelius Green and Jocelyn Peters.
Court exhibit

After Cutler confirmed that Jocelyn and the baby had been killed, Green bought a return train ticket. 

When Green got back to St. Louis, he first tried to get Peters’ mother to “check on her,” knowing what she would find, the memo says. 

“The depravity of asking a mother to go find Jocelyn’s body, knowing she was dead, can’t be matched,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Becker said during Tuesday’s hearing.

Only after he learned that she was unavailable did he go to Peters’ apartment and call 911 to report her death. He pretended he had no knowledge of the circumstances leading to the deaths, lying to police and getting Cutler and others to conceal evidence. Cutler was detained for questioning that same night, after he attempted to retrieve the Kia Optima from the crime scene at Green’s direction. 

When told he was being detained, Cutler ate two pieces of paper from a notebook in his pocket.

“The devastating actions of one depraved individual continue to impact the victims’ family, colleagues, friends and young students,” said St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore. “We are grateful for the resources provided by the U.S. Attorney’s office to help bring closure to this heartbreaking case.”   

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) and the FBI investigated the case, which is being prosecuted in cooperation with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tiffany Becker and Zachary Bluestone are prosecuting the case.  Former SLMPD Homicide Detective Mark Biondolino was the case agent. The case against Green was initially prosecuted by Chief Trial Attorney Marvin O. Teer, Jr. and Assistant Circuit Attorney Rob Huq in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office.

Victims of domestic and family violence seeking help can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or contact one of the agencies listed here:


Robert Patrick, Public Affairs Officer,

Updated June 25, 2024

Violent Crime