Three weeks have passed since Mayor Jayne Peters, of Coppell, Texas, was found dead
in her home, the apparent victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police also found the body of the mayor's teen daughter, Corrine, who had been shot by her mother.
Speculation and rumors swirled
in the immediate aftermath as those closest to the mayor found her final actions to be both uncharacteristic and unfathomable.
Autopsies for both Mayor Peters
and her daughter
seemed to confirm the initial finding of a murder-suicide. The younger woman was shot from behind, and from several feet away, while the mother's wound was inflicted in a manner consistent with suicide.
Several new details have been reported as the investigations into the mayor's death, and life, have continued.
Hand Gun Was Borrowed
The hand gun used to complete the murder-suicide was a gun borrowed from another small-town mayor. Mayor Rob Franke of Cedar Hill, Texas--a suburb south-west of Dallas, and approximately 40-miles from Coppell--was the owner of the gun used by Peters. Franke contacted police soon after learning of the incident, and indicated that Peters had borrowed his gun after a discussion about obtaining a concealed weapons permit and under the pretext of using the gun in an upcoming permit training course.
According to reports, Franke had demonstrated the gun to Peters
during a shooting range session, and then left the gun with Peters to use in the training course she claimed to have scheduled.
Details of Suicide Notes
New details reveal that Peters believed that her situation had grown hopeless
, and one of the notes left behind indicates that her daughter felt the same way:
A typed note that police found in the kitchen reads: "O grace of God, please forgive me and have mercy on my eternal soul. My sweet, sweet Corinne had grown completely inconsolable. She had learned to hide her feelings from her friends, but the two of us were lost, alone and afraid. Corinne just kept on asking, 'Why won’t God just let me die.' We hadn’t slept at all and neither one of us could stop crying when we were together.”
The note, which was left on a table, next to the cremated remains of Peters' husband, who had died two years earlier, also asked for there to be no memorial and no funeral for the two women.
Peters left a total of four notes, including one on the front door asking the first responders to "please forgive me" for what they would find in the house, and another asking that the family pets, two dogs and four cats, be taken care of by family members.
Finally, a handwritten note, signed and taped to the door of the bathroom where she took her own life, asked that she not be resuscitated "under any circumstances."
The assertion that Corinne was "completely inconsolable" fell flat
with the teen's friends, most of whom now believe that Corinne was being deceived by her mother who killed her when the deceptions could not be sustained.
Financial Troubles and Ethical Questions Lingered
A report submitted to the City Council has detailed a protracted financial scandal
that was coming to a head just as the mayor took her own life. The report details the use of City credit cards by the mayor, and the increased use of the cards for personal items that were never reimbursed. The first red flags seemed to have alerted the City Manager in early 2010. By March, the City Manager was questioning the use of the cards and the mayor's inability to properly account for all of the charges and her failure to repay personal expenses. The total personal expenses totaled over $3,500 at that time, though some of those charges were later reimbursed via money order.
A pattern of avoidance continued
through April, May, and June, with Peters repeatedly canceling scheduled meetings to discuss the financial irregularities claiming various medical issues and unplanned doctor's appointments. Peters also claimed to have lost emails, misplaced receipts and bills, and played phone tag with the City Manager, returning calls at times when he was obviously not in his office.
The City Manager, who claims to have given greater leeway to Peters because of her claimed medical conditions and in deference to her position as mayor, was planning to confront the mayor formally and publicly at the scheduled July 13th City Council meeting, the council meeting at which the mayor never arrived.
The final report, conducted in the weeks after the death of Peters concluded that more than $6,300 of city funds were used to finance the mayor's personal purchases.
Deception Came Unraveled
One of the charges made to the city credit cards was for a rental car that the mayor apparently told her daughter was a graduation gift, but which was actually only a rented item.
The Dallas Morning news reports
that as the financial troubles of her mother have come to light, it seems that Corinne was being fooled into believing she was going to the University of Texas. Corinne, who friends lovingly referred to as
, "goofy," "sweet," and "gullible" wouldn't have been out of character to both believe her mother had taken care of her college application and that her mother's illnesses were causing her to miss planned freshmen orientation activities.
According to a report,
Coppell High School has not been able to confirm Corinne's academic transcripts or other information was actually sent to the University of Texas at Austin or Texas Christian University, two schools where she told friends she applied. Both schools have indicated they did not receive admissions materials
from Corinne Peters, and she was not actually enrolled at either school, despite the fact her Facebook page indicated she had missed orientation meetings at the University of Texas for a "bunch of different medical situations."
This was a similar excuse to the one her mother used to avoid the City Manager.
The same Dallas Morning News report indicates the situation with the missed school appointments and car came to a head, and Peters took the final actions to avoid facing the consequences:
Police said Corinne was last seen about 6 a.m. that day as she walked out of the family house and placed items in a car in the driveway. Jayne Peters was seen 15 to 20 minutes later, taking items out of the car and back into the house.
Later, the mayor returned the car to the rental dealership and walked home
, causing some to speculate that she had already killed her daughter and was returning home to complete her plan.
Medical Issues Also A Possible Factor
The autopsy report indicated that Peters was wearing two medication patches of a strong medication, reported to be one hundred times more powerful than morphine
, often used by cancer patients for pain management. Peters, however, showed no signs of cancer or other major medical condition, and there were no traces of the drug in her system.
The Dallas Morning News reported on one theory
which supposes Peters may have applied the patches just prior to her suicide in the hope that they would help dull the pain if the bullet wound proved not to be fatal.
"It could be that she had those patches on there for a long time, and there was nothing left in there to absorb," Barnard said. "Or, it could be that she put them on right before she shot herself and the drug didn't have time to absorb and wasn't in her bloodstream in a level that we could detect."
Another theory speculates that if the patches were remnants of her late-husband's cancer treatment, they may have been ineffective and not delivered any medication into her system.
The Houston Chronicle
reported that a donation was made to the city to pay back the money left unpaid by Mayor Peters:
David Murph, the husband of the editor of a local newspaper, was the once-anonymous man who dropped off an envelope containing the money at City Hall on Wednesday. A note accompanied the cash, directing that it "reimburse the city for any and all credit card charges of Jayne Peters, with any remainder to go to the city."
Murph's wife, Jean Murph, the editor of a Coppell newspaper that publishes weekly, said in an e-mail that her husband delivered the donation for her.
"The reason the donation was anonymous was for it to be representative of the many people in Coppell who cared about Jayne Peters and her family," the e-mail said.
Following the mayor's death, former mayor, Doug Stover, announced his intention
to run for the vacant office. In a posting at a Dallas newspaper web-site, Stover is quoted as saying, "After the tragic events of a couple of weeks ago and the need to ... create some consistency and stability in the community, I think I should return to the mayor's chair."
Filing for the vacant office will continue until Aug. 30 with a special election on Nov. 2
. In the interim, Mayor Pro Tem Bob Mahalik will fulfill the mayoral duties for Coppell, Texas.