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Press Release

St. Louis Teacher’s Killer Sentenced to Two Consecutive Life Terms in Prison

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

ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Ronnie L. White on Tuesday sentenced the man who fatally shot a pregnant St. Louis schoolteacher at the behest of her boyfriend to two consecutive terms of life in prison.

Judge White called Phillip J. Cutler’s crime the “most heinous” he had seen in his career. 

A jury in U.S. District Court in St. Louis in March found Cutler, 46, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, guilty of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and the murder-for-hire of Jocelyn Peters and her unborn child, Micah Leigh, in 2016. 

Peters’ boyfriend, Cornelius M. Green, 42, of St. Louis, pleaded guilty on Feb. 28, 2024, to the same charges and admitted hiring Cutler, his longtime friend, to kill Peters. Peters was 31 weeks pregnant with Green’s child. Green was principal of Carr Lane Middle School and used cash stolen from the school to fund the murder.

Green, who was also involved in sexual relationships with several other women and was separated from his wife, researched ways to secretly end the pregnancy after learning that Peters was pregnant, according to a sentencing memo filed by the government. When that plan failed, he contacted Cutler, a childhood friend, and they planned the murder in a series of phone calls. 

On March 7, 2016, Green sent Cutler a UPS package containing $2,500 cash. 

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 ensured there would be potatoes in the residence prior to Cutler’s arrival by going shopping with Peters.

A still image from surveillance video showing Cornelius Green and Jocelyn Peters.

At 6:14 a.m. the next morning, Cutler confirmed to Green that Jocelyn and the baby had been killed. Green then bought his return train ticket, and Cutler then went to North Riverfront Park in St. Louis to dispose of evidence. 

Upon arriving back in St. Louis, Green got his car back from Cutler and went to Peters’ apartment, where he called 911 to report her death. He pretended he had no knowledge of the circumstances leading to the deaths. 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.

A still from a surveillance video showing Phillip Cutler.

Peters’ friends and family repeatedly described her as “magic,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Becker said in court Tuesday. Peters’ mother and aunt spoke about the impact of her death on their family. Dr. Nicole Conaway, principal at Mann Elementary School when Peters taught there, also spoke. She called Peters a “natural teacher” who was a “bright light” wherever she went and would start each school day “full of joy.” Dr. Conaway, who had to break the news of Peters’ murder to her 23 third-grade students, said little seemed to console the children or adults at Mann in the days after her death. She said she was called to Peters’ former classroom one day to find a student threatening to throw himself off a balcony in the stairwell, saying he “hated life and wanted to go be with Ms. Peters.”

Green is scheduled to be sentenced June 25. 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. 

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.


Robert Patrick, Public Affairs Officer,

Updated July 18, 2024

Violent Crime