Irvine parents' alleged drug plot a 'bizarre' case, police say
The investigation into an Irvine couple accused of planting drugs in a car belonging to a woman who volunteered at their son's school in an attempt to get her arrested is, police admit, a strange case.
Kent and Jill Easter, both 38-year-old attorneys, were arrested Tuesday on felony charges of conspiracy to procure false arrest, false imprisonment and conspiracy to falsely report a crime, authorities said.
Investigators say the couple hatched a plan to frame Kelli Peters -- a well-known Plaza Vista School volunteer who would go on to become the school's PTA president -- for what the Easters alleged was her ill treatment of their young son at school.
Kent Easter is accused of putting drugs in Peters' unlocked car and falsely reporting to police he saw her drive erratically to the school and stash the drugs in the back seat of her car. Investigators eventually determined the drugs didn't belong to Peters, and they traced the call and the drugs to Kent Easter, authorities said.
It wasn't the first time the Easters had been in a dispute with Peters.
In March 2010, Kent Easter filed a civil complaint in Orange County Superior Court alleging that his son, then a first-grader, had been in an after-school tennis class the month before when Peters locked the child out of the school for about 19 minutes.
A tennis instructor said he had found the child "crying and alone," and trying to open the door to the building, according to Easter’s complaint.
When Jill Easter asked Peters why she had left the child outside, the complaint alleged, Peters said the child "takes too long to line up with the other children after class and it is too hard to wait for him."
Jill Easter then contacted a director of the after-school program, who asked her not to contact police, the complaint said. The civil case was dismissed.
Around the same time, Jill Easter filed a request for a restraining order against Peters, alleging that the school volunteer was "harassing and stalking" her and her son, and that she had "threatened to kill me."
"She will stop at nothing in her attempts to silence myself and my son," Jill Easter alleged. She also complained that Peters had been telling parents at her son's school that she was "psychotic" and "unstable."
"She is stalking me and attempting to intimidate me at my son's school and while I run errands in Irvine," Jill Easter alleged.
The request for the restraining order was denied.
Calls to Kent Easter's law office were not returned. The couple has not entered a plea in court.
Peters declined requests from The Times for an interview. But in an interview with KTLA News, she said she was shocked when police confronted her at the school.
"I lost my breath, I thought I was on a joke show, like somebody was playing a joke on me," Peters told KTLA.
"They tried to make me look like the worst person you could be when you're involved with a school ... like why would someone do that to another human being? I don't even really know the reason. I just don't understand it.”
The Easters, who are free on $20,000 bail each, are scheduled to be arraigned next month in Orange County Superior Court.
Ian Hanigan, a spokesman for the Irvine Unified School District, said the district was "made aware of a conflict between the victim and the suspects that dated back to more than two years.
"This is obviously a sad and unfortunate incident involving members of our community," he said. He did not want to say much more, but added: "The allegation is a new one for me."
Lt. Julia Engen of the Irvine Police Department said the same thing.
"I've seen some bizarre stuff," Engen said. "I'm not going to say it's the weirdest thing I've ever seen, but it's definitely a unique situation I've never seen before."
-- Kate Mather, Nicole Santa Cruz and Christopher Goffard
Photo: Kent Easter, left, and his wife, Jill Easter. Credit: Irvine Police Department