This is Part 2 of our story covering Kelli Peters.
Kelli Peters was living her dream life in sunny, perfect Irvine, California. She was the president of the PTA, and everyone adored her, everyone except for someone, who would stop at nothing to ruin Kelli's perfect existence.
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Previously on The Secret Sits, Kelli Peters had been accused of many things by fellow school parents Kent and Jill Easter, however; we have learned that Kent and Jill Easter were the ones with the preverbal blood on their hands. And that is where we find ourselves while we pick up our story today.
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Welcome to The Secret Sits, I’m your host John Dodson. Join us every Thursday as we uncover the Secrets behind the world’s most fascinating true crime cases. You can find all episodes of The Secret Sits for free on Apple Podcast, Spotify or where ever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you are hearing, reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook @The Secret Sits Podcast or on Twitter @SecretSitsPod. Now, on with our story.
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While the detectives were sitting outside of the Easter’s house on the morning, they intended to serve their search warrants, the officers noticed something a bit odd. The two detectives were sitting in an unmarked police car, they were sitting outside of the house and just down the street when a hunky firefighter came strolling up the street, in the direction of the Easter’s home. As the man approached the house, he looked over and clocked the two detectives in their unmarked car. As soon as this man saw the cops, he turned around and high tailed it out of there, as he turned and quickly walked in the other direction, he had his phone up to his ear, talking to someone. And as the man briskly walked away, who should emerge from the Easter’s house, but Jill Easter, in a negligee. As Jill looked around, she too saw the police and she retreated back inside of her house.
As the mysterious visitor began to drive away in his pickup truck, the police pulled him over. This is when the police found out that this man was Glen Gomez and he was a firefighter with the Los Angeles Fire Department. His station house is located about 50 miles north of Irvine. When the cops asked Glen what he was doing in Irvine, he stated that he was in Irvine to meet “a beautiful Swedish girl, her name is Jill.” And I know what you are probably thinking, Jill, is now a bored house wife and she probably put an add somewhere looking for a fling, or she is on some dating app looking for a supplemental relationship, but oh no, Glen Gomez was not actually there to meet some Swedish girl, no, because Glen and Jill had been having this extramarital affair for over 2 ½ years at this point. This couple just liked to play around with their sexual trysts. Court records later showed that the two adults sent each other sexually explicit phots and almost pornographic texts. Jill called Glen by the pet names, Sex Ninja, Papi and Mr. Delicious, while Glen referred to Jill as his Sex Goddess, Baby girl or Mrs. Delicious, and hey at least they are both Delicious.
Based on Glen Gomez’s phone records, police cleared him of any involvement in the drug planting operation and then they decided to enlist Glen to help them in their investigation. Glen was very nervous to participate in the cops’ scheme, the cops told Glen that she would ruin him in time, but Glen kept professing his love for Jill. Finally, three weeks later, Glen agreed to wear a wire for a controlled meet.
Glen agreed to the controlled meet for one reason, to prove that he had nothing to hid. On March 23th, Glen was wired up and he went to a park just a block from Jill’s home. When Jill arrived at the park, she had her two youngest children in tow. She introduced Glen to her children as a park ranger, how exciting, and then she told them to go play in the playground. The investigators had given Glen bullet points of what to talk about with Jill and he knew that they were listening in on the conversation. Glen told Jill that he had been questioned by the police and he wanted to know what that was all about. Jill told Glen that she was in some sort of trouble, but she did not elaborate or give him any details. So, Glen pushed harder. “I’m going to tell them the truth. I mean, it’s not a crime to have a beautiful girlfriend,” Gomez said, it’s probably not a smart thing for us to be, like, talking right now, because of what’s going on and stuff.” Glen pressed in the conversation, but Jill was like a steal trap, “Do you think I know?” she replied. “I’m waiting for someone to help me. I’m losing everything here. I don’t know.” Glen told Jill that if she had really not done anything, she should be fine. Jill lost it, “I’m not going to be fine; do you understand me? Don’t just put your head in the sand! This is the moment; this is when I needed someone and you turned your back on me! And I will not survive this!”
Not long after this meeting at the park, Glen and Jill stopped seeing each other and this did not end well for Glen, who was also married. Jill showed up at Glen’s Long Beach home and confronted his wife, she even brought emails and photos as proof. Jill also scribed a letter to the Dance Studio where Glen’s wife worked, she went full psych.
Detective Mark Andreozzi called Kelli Peters at the end of March to tell her that they had strong evidence that the drugs had bee planted in her car, just as Kelli had told the police all along. But Mark stopped short of giving Kelli all of the details, details like the DNA tests which had just come back from the lab and I can’t wait to tell you what those results were, can you guess? The lab discovered Jill Easter’s DNA on the pipe and the Vicodin pills from Kelli’s car, Kent Easter’s DNA was found on the pipe, the Vicodin and the Percocet.
After this phone call months passes and there were still no arrests. Jill Easter decided she is not playing around and so, she hired a bulldog of a lawyer from Orange County, Paul Meyer. Paul is the type of heavy hitter lawyer who is so formidable that when judges find themselves in hot water, Paul is the one they hire. For his defense, Kent Easter hired a formal federal prosecutor named Thomas Bienert Jr.
Thus far, both attorneys had been successful in keeping the contents of Jill and Kent’s phones out of the police’s hands. But the special master assigned to this case, Jensen, sat in a windowless office going through over 20,000 emails on Kent’s BlackBerry alone. Jensen’s task was to separate out anything that fell under the guise of attorney client privilege. The problem with this vetting process is that Jensen could not weed out information ostensibly protected by spousal privilege. So, in October of 2011, eight months after the drug bust, Jensen said he was done with this case, he had done his job and there was nothing more he could do. In November the stack of non-privileged emails and text were sent to the detectives on the case. What police were truly interested in were just those 15 texts sent between Jill and Kent in the early morning hours, the day of the drug bust, unfortunately, all of those text had been erased before the police collected the phones as evidence.
A year had now passed since that day in the school parking lot, when Kelli Peters was found with drugs inside of her car. And it seemed like not much had changed or even gone awry for the couple involved in this case. Even with these legal proceedings looming over him, Kent Easter was made a full equity partner at his law firm. Kelli Peters, on the other hand was having a rough go of it. She had grown understandably paranoid, each morning she did a thorough inspection of her own car and parents would constantly stop in at the front office and leave her baked good on her desk, telling Kelli that she was always in their prayers. Kelli’s daughter, Sydnie, now 11-years-old, would not sleep alone in her own room, she had a constant fear of being kidnapped. Sydnie began to have sessions with the school’s therapist, but this just served to isolate the child even more and more and more of her classmates began noticing that something was different with Sydnie. Eventually Sydnie just asked her mom to be removed from the school, she felt like nothing but a spectacle.
Kelli Peters began developing debilitating anxiety and quite often when Bill came home, he found her sitting somewhere in their house, crying. She began having nightmares, she got off of social media, she would fly off the handle of people forgot to lock the door to the apartment. Irvine, this sprawling land of safety which had drawn Kelli to it like a moth to a flame, no longer seemed safe to Kelli, and she began developing some troubling struggles with her mental health. Kelli’s family would often walk in on Kelli talking to herself, most of the time she was reenacting the scene in the school parking lot with Officer Shaver, still pleading with him and trying to explain her side of the story, like it was happening right there in real time.
One thing I have neglected to mention about Jill Easter, aside from being an accomplished attorney, she was also a published author. And Jill did not write dry legal texts, no, Jill wrote juicy and spicey True Crime Fiction. The detectives on this case began to read some of Jill’s self-published novel, trying to gain insight into the woman’s mind through her body of work. The plot of Jill’s novel “Holding House” follows a Berkeley-educated heroine, named Libby, and her group of friends who all went to Berkeley as the group plans a foolproof crime. The plan was to kidnap an extremely wealthy person and take that person to Panama until someone paid them a ransom. The marketing of this book seemed questionable as well, it almost looked like a licensed attorney was seducing the public to commit crimes. Jill’s quote to promote this book was as follows.
“Ever dream about the perfect crime? It’s in this book! As you read, you’ll be wondering why no one has thought of it before. It’s shockingly simple, twisted and 100% possible. Once you read about it, you’ll be tempted to pull it off!”
In the spring of 2012, a new prosecutor was put on the case, Christopher Duff, Duff was a career prosecutor in just entering his 40s. This case felt strange to Duff from the moment the case file hit his desk. Why was everyone going through such a rigorous, intense and expensive investigation for someone who had not even been hurt? I mean, at any given time there were up to 20 detectives assigned to this case, Duff had run much bigger cases with way less resources. Duff met will Kelli Peters, to introduce himself and get to know her as the victim. After meeting with Kelli, Duff described her as brittle and that her nerves were raw. He also believed that any juror would find Kelli Peters sympathetic on the stand, any time she spoke about Kent and Jill Easters’ attempts to ruin her life, her eyes were welled up with tears.
Duff decided that this case had been investigated long enough and he thought that he had all he needed to go to trial, hell their DNA was on the pipe and the pills in the car; they had motive and the opportunity, the phone pings put them at the scene, Duff had convicted people of murder with less evidence.
As you may expect, the Easters, through their high-powered attorneys had made some under the table arrangements for the couple. They were told that should the day come, that they would be arrested for this case, they would receive advanced warning, this would ensure that their bail was waiting on them when they arrived at the station and they would not have to spend even a minute behind actual bars. This is what you get when you have money and good lawyers. But this apparent agreement had been made begore Duff took hold of the case and he did not give two shits about any supposed agreements. In June of 2012 Duff obtained arrest warrants for Kent and Jill Easter, he cautioned his team not to record the warrants on any public court computers, where the lawyers could see them.
Just after Kent Easter dropped off two of his children at their tennis camp, a patrol car lite Kent up in a busy Irvine intersection. Kent was in full view of everyone in Newport Beach as the officer put him in handcuffs and had his Toyota Camry towed. The officer transported Kent to the Santa Ana County jail and as Kent stood in the intake courtyard, he watched as his wife, Jill was taken out of a squad car, also in handcuffs and walked to the intake.
Both Attorneys were charged with conspiring to plant drugs in Kelli Peter’s car, both were bail out of jail quickly by their attorneys, and their mug shots were also quickly picked up by the evening news.
Kent Easter was removed as partner at Stradling, Yocca, Carlson & Rauth and he was escorted out of his 14th floor office with a view of Newport Beach, with nothing more than a carboard box full of his things and a memory of his $400,000 a year salary.
As the legal process went on, Prosecutor Duff obtained felony indictments against both Kent and Jill and he showed no interest in allowing the couple to plead to misdemeanor charges. As convicted felons the couple would no longer be allowed to practice law. Of course, Jill had not practiced law in years, but this would have wreaked financial ruin on the family if Kent could no longer work in his profession. Duff decided that the case was the strongest against Kent, it was his DNA all over stuff from Kelli’s car, Kent had been caught on camera making the fake 911 call, and it was Kent’s BlackBerry that was pinging close to Kelli’s apartment the morning the drugs were found. So, guess who decided to take the blame for planting the drugs? Of course, it was Jill, she filled a declaration with the court to attest to this. But this was not just an outright confession, no, this declaration could not even be used against her in court, it had one singular and narrow focus, to make the court try Kent and Jill separately.
But why would that be important? Let me break that down for you really quick. If Jill and Kent had separate trials, the defense team would do everything in their power to have Jill’s trial first. The confession she gave would be inadmissible in her trial, as a condition of its existence. The evidence against Jill is not as great as the evidence against Kent. Jill also had an amazing attorney in Paul Meyer, so more than likely she would be acquitted of all charges. Then we move on to Kent’s trial, during Kent’s trial, Jill would take the stand, where her admission of guilt would be allowed in court and once, she testified that it was her that planted the drugs, Kent would be acquitted. Because Jill had already been acquitted of the crime, she cannot be tried again, so husband and wife both walk away Scot-free. This was a great legal strategy; it was like playing 5 moves a head in chess. But, to make all of this work the judge had to agree to separate the trials. So as the Easters stood before the judge, they held their breath, would it work? The judge looked at the defendants and said, Motion Denied.
Jill Easter was still not done and, in the Fall of 2013, while prosecutor Duff was in the middle of final preparations for the trial against both of the Easters, his phone rang. It was Jill Easter’s attorney Meyer and he wanted to offer a new settlement for Jill, she would agree to plead guilty to one felony count of false imprisonment by fraud or deceit. Jill would not have to sit through an embarrassing trial and she would be allowed to testify for her husband.
Duff agreed to this and Jill received a sentence of 120 days in the county jail, she would end up serving less than half of that time, plus she had to work 100 hours of community service at the Costa Mesa soup kitchen. Jill was also immediately disbarred.
Kent Easter went on trial in November 2013, surrounded by the best high-priced lawyers you could ask for, Thomas Bienert jr. who was once the best federal prosecutor in Orange County, and he had recently been named “White-Collar Lawyer of the Year”, and nothing says douchebag like that award. Kelli Peters sat in the witness stand, giving the jurors the full picture of her experience through trembles and tears. She told the story of when she was detained by police and the found drugs in her car and just as Duff thought, she was a great witness, very sympathetic.
The defense attorney attempted to diminish Kelli’s experience from that day as he questioned Officer Shaver, she was not in handcuffs, she was never even placed in the squad car, but Duff would not be out performed by these over paid blowhards, and he also asked Officer Shaver about the encounter from that day. “She fell to her knees crying, begging you, please, please, please, Correct?” Duff asked “Yes” replied Shaver
The scales of justice may be blind, but the defense attorneys were not and they could tell that those scales were not tipping in their direction, so they tossed their last hat into the ring and they decided to portray their successful, young lawyer client as an emasculated lackey for his wife. The claimed that Jill Easter berated Kent, she deceived him, she had a 2 ½ year relationship behind his back with a hunky firefighter, who hasn’t dreamed of that? “While Kent is a very good human being, he didn’t have a backbone when it came to his wife,” his attorney told jurors. “She wore the pants in the family. She pushed him around.”
And to many in the audience’s shock, Kent Easter took the stand in his own defense. He stood tall and neatly kept, he rose his right hand and he swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and then he sat down and began.
“it was my wife.” Kent said to the jury, he explained, Jill had become obsessed with destroying this PTA mom from the school. She planted pot and painkillers in Kelli Peters’ car. Jill had manipulated Kent into participating in her criminal acts, Jill was the reason he was sitting before them today, with his life in possible shambles, now on trial for a felony charge.
The defense team wanted to show the jury a glimpse into the madness that had become Kent’s life after Jill became obsessed with Kelli Peters; Defense Exhibit L: an email titled “Need to get serious” in this email Jill talks about how to crush the lowly school volunteer who she said deliberately locked her 6-year-old son outside of his elementary school. Jill wanted background checks on Jill, she wanted her to be arrested, she wanted a restraining order and she wanted to sue Kelli Peters, the school, the school district, the school board, and the public-schools foundation. The email ended in all caps, “Why are we letting this no one abuse our son and then trash our family, followed by 68 exclamation points.
Kent said that he knew nothing about Jill’s plan to frame Kelli, but how was Kent to explain away the fact that his BlackBerry was pinging close to Kelli’s car, just hours before the drugs were found. And this is where the significands of the different phones are important. Kent had a BlackBerry and Jill had an iPhone. Kent looked at the jury and said, we swapped phones. Kent claimed that he had been home all night, sleeping the night away, he was still recovering at the time from a surgery. Kent said that Jill left her iPhone in the bathroom charging and she took his BlackBerry, he had no idea what she was out doing that night. Later on, that day, after Kent had arrived at work, Jill called him and told him that she had seen Kelli popping pills and then driving like a mad woman in the Plaza Vista elementary school parking lot. Jill insisted that Kent go call the police, and because Kent is a little emasculated man, he agreed to do as his wife instructed.
Kent gave a fake name that belonged to a former Indian neighbor, nothing like giving the name of a person with brown skin to cover your own ass Kent, maybe you really were emasculated. And Kent said that he tried to mimic VJ Chandrasckhr’s Indian accent without any training, yeah man that’s just called racism. The 911 call was then played in the courtroom and Kent admitted that he was even more embarrassed now.
In another attempt to show what a vicious, succubus Jill Easter truly was, the defense played an audio tape of the wire tap from the park on the day the police had Jill meet with her firefighter lover in the park. On this tape the jury could hear Jill as she veraciously lambasted Glen, all while he acted calm and simply asked her questions.
The audience was starting to see how terrible Jill Easter could truly be and those bling scales began to shift back toward the defense’s side. But now, because Kent chose to take the stand, prosecutor Duff gets his turn to question the man. Duff had a special delivery in the courtroom, he was not all howdy do, or full of righteous indignation, he was full of biting sarcasm. Duff employed extremely animated facial expressions; the jury could read his face even if he was all the way across the room Duff stood directly in front of Kent Easter, why are you still married to this woman if she is so horrible? Kent looked at Duff and said, “Sir, this is the mother of my three children, and my wife”
Duff asked Kent why Jill would leave her iPhone with him, he said he knew her passcode and if that was true, he could have easily looked in her phone and discovered her ongoing sexual escapades with her fight fighter boytoy.
After Kent left the stand, everyone in the court room waited with baited breath, Jill Easter had to be the next witness, she had been the whole narrative behind her husband’s defense, all she had to do was take the stand and admit her guilt and they surely would win their case. But everyone was left in shock as the defense team stood at their table and stated, the defense rests. So, after all that, the defense is so confident that they don’t even need Jill’s testimony and confession, well let us see if that works out for them.
The charge was one count of false imprisonment by fraud or deceit, the jury of 12 men and women deliberated, and in the end 11 voted guilty and one woman who felt sorry for Kent, refused to change her vote from not-guilty to guilty. Hung Jury. Kent Easter was put on trial again and we can fast forward because all of the same things happened, Kelli cried, Kent said he was a little bitch and then finally what we have all been waiting on, Jill Easter walks into the courtroom to take the stand. When Jill enters the court and sits on the witness stand, an issue arises as she begins pointing toward her ears, apparently Jill is now claiming that in her 2 months in jail, she had become hard of hearing and no, no, no an ASL interpreter will not suffice, Jill demanded a TV screen be brought into the courtroom so she could read the lawyer’s question to her in real time.
The Court could see through Jill’s charade and the judge told Jill that she would have to make do with an ASL interpreter, just like everyone else had to do, she was not special. After this ruling, the defense team rethought their strategy and they decided to just send Jill Easter home, she would not be testifying in this case. Prosecutor Duff did have a tough hill to climb, as he had to make the court understand why the Easters would have been trying to ruin Kelli Peter’s life to begin with, why would this couple need or want to plant drugs on this school volunteer? And we know why the Eaters felt this way, because a year before the drug incident, Kelli had inadvertently left the Easter’s 6-year-old child, locked outside of the school for a few minutes. In Duff’s closing statement to the jury he said, “This is the 21st century, where everyone thinks their son should be the star quarterback, star shortstop, batting first, whatever it is. Whatever happened, whatever their son said, got these two very upset and it escalated.” And he tried to make the jury see how much of a scam this entire scenario truly was, “How uncomfortable is it at the dinner table?” Duff asked. “‘Jill, can you pass me the mashed potatoes, please?’ ‘Yeah, OK.’ ‘Don’t frame me while you’re passing the mashed potatoes, please, though.’ Really? They’re still together.”
The pivotal moment in this second trial came, also in Duff’s closing arguments. Duff told the jury that the precise location of both of the Easter’s cell phone was knowable through 3 different ways, you see, the phone pings against the nearest cell phone tower when it does one of 3 things, when a call is made from the phone, when it sends or receives a text message, and when the phone performers an automatic data check to monitor the devices’ health. Everyone in this case had scoured through the phone’s records as far as text messages and phone calls, but the data-check record had not been mentioned by anyone, even though they were admitted into evidence.
The text pings from Jill Easter’s iPhone had shown the phone at the Easter’s home on the night of the drug planting operation, however; when we look at the data-check record, we can tell that Jill’s iPhone is actually right outside of Kelli’s apartment off and on from midnight until almost 8am. Duff opined that Jill and Kent Easter left their children overnight with a babysitter and they traveled together to Kelli Peter’s apartment and one acted as a look out while the other planted the drugs in Kelli’s car. So now, as Duff so eloquently pointed out, even if the couple had swapped phones as they claimed, both cell phones are at the victim’s house, oops.
The defense team had already concluded their closing arguments and they had no way to refute this new fact, Duff had slipped into his closing argument. When the jury left the room the defense team exploded into a cacophony of anger, they had been had, there should be a mistrial, they said. But Duff simply said that the defense team had the exact same phone records in their discovery, they had been in possession of the records for over a year at this point. Either the defense team had not looked at the records closely enough, or they had hoped that he would not look close enough to figure this out. Judge Thomas Goethals told the defense team that Mr. Duff had every right to save a good argument for his closing and it seemed to him that Mr. Duff made a strategic decision to do so. Two hours later the jury came back and into the courtroom and read their verdict, Guilty as charged.
What came next surprised everyone in the courtroom, the judge ordered the bailiff to take Kent Eater into custody. This had not been the plan and Kent had made no arrangements for his three kids, so the judge gave Kent one day to get his arrears in order and the judge made it clear that this was a concession for Kent and Jill’s children, only. Kent spoke to Jill later that same day and he explained to her what was going on, Jill’s response to this was her telling Kent that if he really loved his family, he would kill himself and allow them to collect on his $500,000 life-insurance policy. Kent refuted this suggestion and when he did Jill then suggested that the family flee to Belize, or she could committee suicide herself. That evening as Kent took his 24-hour reprieve from the judge to get his affairs in order. He worked to closed down his law practice, something he had worked for his entire life, all the while attempting to comfort his wife, when Kent woke up the following morning, he found searches on Jill’s iPad for “How to kill yourself”.
Kent was taken into custody, but he was still waiting on his sentencing hearing. Kent sat in jail for 5 weeks waiting on his hearing and when it finally arrived, Judge Goethals told Kent, “In a perfect world, I would send you to prison largely as a statement of disgust for what you and your wife did.” However, the prisons were becoming quickly overpopulated and solely bases, on that factor, the judge only sentenced Kent Easter to 180 days in the county jail and 100 hours of community service. Kent would serve half of his jail time and then he would be on probation for the following 3 years. Just before Kent’s second trial was scheduled to begin, he had filed for divorce from Jill Easter, now that he was serving his time in jail, Jill filed a petition with the court for full custody of their 3 children.
When Kent was released from jail in December of 2014, he stated in court documents that Jill refused to allow his to see or speak to his children, he complained that Jill would not even update him on the wellbeing of the family’s cat, or surrender his own sleep apnea machine to him.
Kent Easter and his wife, Jill Easter, plotted, planned and schemed to destroy the life of Kelli Peters for a full year. This incident with the Eaters was the worst experience of Kelli Peters’ life. Her daughter Sydnie grew isolated from her friends and family and asked to change schools, she was afraid of the Easter monster.
Jurors in the trial of Kelli Peters vs Kent and Jill Easter, did not find any sympathy for the scheming couple either and the awarded Kelli Peters a verdict of $5.7 million dollars. Kelli’s friends decided to help her celebrate her victory by purchasing a heart shaped pinata, they then attached printed copies of Kent and Jill’s mugshots and attached them to the pinata. Kelli took the stick and gave the pinata a few half-hearted whacks, then her now 15-year-old daughter Sydnie took the stick and she told her mom to stand back, as she decimated the pinata, this room filled with supporters began laughing and crying, this was an end of 5 years of torture and mental fatigue.
Kent Easter tried to get back into the dating scene, after he was released from jail, but the story was always the same for Kent, he would meet a nice girl, he would ask her out and then for their impending date arrived, the girl would cancel, with four simple words, “I just googled you.”