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Press Release

Oklahoma Man Convicted of Murder-For-Hire of St. Louis Schoolteacher

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

ST. LOUIS – A jury in U.S. District Court in St. Louis on March 19, 2024, found Phillip J. Cutler of Muskogee, Oklahoma guilty of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and the murder-for-hire of St. Louis Public School teacher Jocelyn Peters, and her unborn child, Micah Leigh, in 2016. 

Prosecutors proved to jurors that Cutler was enlisted by his longtime friend, Cornelius M. Green, to commit the murders.

Green, 42, of St. Louis, pleaded guilty on Feb. 28, 2024 to the same charges. He admitted as part of his plea hiring his longtime friend, Cutler, to kill Peters. Peters was 31 weeks pregnant with Green’s child. Green was also involved in sexual relationships with several other women.

Green admitted during his plea that he used cash stolen from Carr Lane Middle School, where he was principal, to pay Cutler. On Feb. 28, 2016, Green texted Cutler and asked him to come to St. Louis during the week of March 20, 2016. Cutler asked if Green would be sending “the package,” and on March 7, Green sent Cutler a UPS package containing $2,500 cash. 

On March 21, Cutler arrived in St. Louis via Greyhound bus, staying with Green’s sister. 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. During his testimony, Cutler admitted seeing the 1992 film South Central, during which a character similarly used a potato as a silencer. Peters was working on baby shower invitations at the time she was killed.

At 6:14 a.m. the morning following the murder, Cutler confirmed to Green that Jocelyn and the baby had been killed. Following their conversation, Green bought his return train ticket, and Cutler then went to North Riverfront Park to dispose of evidence. 

Upon arriving back in St. Louis, Green retrieved his car from Cutler and went directly to Peters’ apartment and called 911 to report her death. He repeatedly made false statements to law enforcement and others attempting to evade responsibility for his ordering of the murders and pretending he had no knowledge of the circumstances leading to the deaths. Cutler was detained for questioning that same night after attempting to retrieve the Kia Optima from the crime scene. When told he was being detained, Cutler ate two pieces of paper from a notebook in his pocket.

Green is scheduled to be sentenced June 5 and faces a sentence of life in prison. As part of the plea, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office has agreed to dismiss their case against Green for the murders if he is sentenced to life in federal prison. 

Cutler is scheduled to be sentenced June 18. He faces life in prison on each charge.

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 Detective Mark Biondolino was the case agent. 

Contact

Robert Patrick, Public Affairs Officer, robert.patrick@usdoj.gov.

Updated July 19, 2024

Topic
Violent Crime