She was the PTA mom everyone knew. Who would want to harm her?
August 31, 2016 9:52 PM   Subscribe

FRAMED: A Mystery In Six Parts. The LA Times' Christopher Goffard brings you a truly bizarre bit of true crime, involving planted drugs, PTA moms, sexy firemen, self-published novels, cold-blooded revenge, and a whole lot more.

As of now, this six-part series is half complete. I'm partly posting it here so that I remember to finish reading it, because it's a wild ride.
posted by showbiz_liz (103 comments total) 84 users marked this as a favorite
 
This whole thing was so crazy when it happened. I live in Irvine and am an attorney in the area. This was one of the rare times when neighbors and work colleagues were all talking about the same thing. It was also one of the rare times when local newspapers and AboveTheLaw were covering the same story. Looking forward to the rest of this series!
posted by Arbac at 10:11 PM on August 31, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh my god this happened right after I moved out of the area. The whole thing is so flipping wild that I got anxious chills right away. Looking for the next installment, even though it makes me feel kind of weird for saying so.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:36 PM on August 31, 2016


(please note: iPad-rejecting layout in my experience, as with many of these high-production-value longreads in the wake of, uh, Snow Fall iirc)
posted by mwhybark at 11:15 PM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anyone who thinks this tale is outlandish in its upper middle class entitlement and pettiness has never served on a PTA.
posted by benzenedream at 11:19 PM on August 31, 2016 [25 favorites]


The problem with living in "nice" and "safe" expensive neighborhoods is that you have to live with people who are obsessed with "nice" and "safe" expensive neighborhoods. I find less dangerous and crazy people in the areas they would be terrified of.
posted by bongo_x at 11:26 PM on August 31, 2016 [31 favorites]


Can someone summarize this for me, because the subject sounded interesting, but reading that overwrought piece is just annoying.

Here is this perfect person, gasp, what is going to happen, gasp... blah, blah, blah. Is there an actual there, there?
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 11:30 PM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


i can't believe u tricked me into reading a fucking WiP

how do i retract kudos
posted by poffin boffin at 11:36 PM on August 31, 2016 [29 favorites]




Is there an actual there, there?

Uh, try reading it?
posted by stoneandstar at 11:45 PM on August 31, 2016 [23 favorites]


short form with more snark

Now that one I couldn't get through. I'll just wait a couple of days.
posted by bongo_x at 11:49 PM on August 31, 2016


Summary: Irvine, CA, is full of rich, petty, and weirdly vengeful sociopaths who delight in terrorizing members of their community and having illicit and possibly illegal trysts with handsome married firefighters (among other things).

These are their stories.

*Law & Order SFX*
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:03 AM on September 1, 2016 [34 favorites]


I love this sort of story, thanks for posting!
Wth is with the metafilter snark responses to style of writing? That's not the damn point of posts like this and it adds absolutely nothing to an interesting conversation.
posted by matt_od at 12:05 AM on September 1, 2016 [28 favorites]


Belle O'Cosity

tl;dr Lawyer power couple feels slighted by volunteer PTA mom, engages in escalating year-long harassment campaign against her which culminates in a hilariously inept attempt to frame her for drug possession. That quickly falls apart, the police connect the dots and find the lawyers, uncovering lurid affairs and all kinds of craziness in the process.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:05 AM on September 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've only read part one but has anyone else noticed that Jay Chadrasekhar (the name the original caller gives although misspells) is the name of the well known actor and director of Supertroopers? And one glance at that evidence photo of the bag of weed tells you it's a plant or made to look like one. I can't wait to see where this goes, thanks for posting.
posted by headless at 12:25 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, the schadenfreude. Irvine sounds like a ghastly magnet for sociopaths.

Also, anyone else think Kent looks about 13 and Jill looks like she possesses some equine/The Joker DNA?
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 12:31 AM on September 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


It boggles the mind that Irvine law enforcement has enough spare time and human power to minutely investigate chippy shit like this, but they still feel the need to maintain a standing SWAT team.

Having gone to school there for two years, it really shouldn't surprise me, but still, it does.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:35 AM on September 1, 2016 [13 favorites]


I feel weird that examples of crazy combined parents who want teachers fired for giving a kid a B with those who wanted to protect kids from the sun. Where I live "no hat, no play" is strictly enforced, there are covered out door play areas and outdoor activities are planned for mornings and late afternoon to avoid the worst UV of the day. It's considered sensible, not crazy.

I'm turning into my mother picking on such a minor point.
posted by kitten magic at 12:43 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Easters on the other hand, they clearly took the fast train to crazytown.

I'm loving this, thanks!
posted by kitten magic at 12:47 AM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


This thing of slowly posting portions of the story over several days (to maximize ad views, of course) is a really shitty way to report on things. The actual writing is quite good, but this is a sleazy way to showcase it.

And as for that "short form with more snark" link, holy shit the writer of that article and everyone who had editorial oversight over it should be fired immediately.
posted by IAmUnaware at 2:32 AM on September 1, 2016


I've only read part one but has anyone else noticed that Jay Chadrasekhar ...

I think the last name is pretty common, the one I thought of was Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:44 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Kitten Magic, it's not that they thought sun protection was a bad idea. It's that the parent seemed to be asking for a canopy of umbrellas instead of hats and sunscreen.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:42 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


it's another great example of the fact that being extremely smart people is no cushion against doing extremely dumb stuff
posted by terretu at 3:50 AM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thats what i mean though, awnings (usually custom built rather than trying to make a canopy with giant umbrellas) to protect from the sun are totally the norm here. Hats and sunscreen aren't enough in the middle of the day, there needs to be shaded outdoor places for kids.

I was just an interesting cultural difference for me. I'd never in a million years want a teacher fired if my kid got a B (unless they were a genius or extremely hard working I'd expect Bs) but the sun protection stuff is considered life and death.
posted by kitten magic at 4:05 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


*Law & Order SFX*

I'm pretty sure we collectively agreed that was to be expressed as:

DOINK DOINK

“I became afraid of spontaneity and surprises,” she said. “I just wanted to be safe.”

In Irvine, she found a master-planned city where bars and liquor stores, pawnshops and homeless shelters had been methodically purged, where neighborhoods were regulated by noise ordinances, lawn-length requirements and mailbox-uniformity rules. For its size, Irvine consistently ranked as America’s safest city. It was 66 square miles, with big fake lakes, 54 parks, 219,000 people, and 62,912 trees. Anxiety about crime was poured into the very curve of the streets and the layout of the parks, all conceived on drawing boards to deter lawbreaking.


Sounds like there are probably a lot of folks white-knuckling here - unsurprising that some of them snapped.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:25 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm clearly not the target audience for this story, because I couldn't get past my shock and disbelief that the cops didn't leap into an arrest and prosecution after discovering the planted drugs, but rather bent over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt and investigate further.

Then I remembered that her name is Kelli with an I, and I thought, "Twenty crisp new American dollars says she and the investigating officer are white." And lo, Google has revealed my prophecy to be true.
posted by Mayor West at 6:23 AM on September 1, 2016 [27 favorites]


I'm clearly not the target audience for this story, because I couldn't get past my shock and disbelief that the cops didn't leap into an arrest and prosecution after discovering the planted drugs, but rather bent over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt and investigate further.

I do get what you're saying, but even the arresting officer admits that this was highly unusual. They didn't bend over backwards. In fact they hardly bent at all: she wasn't inebriated, the time she arrived to the school was easily certified as different than the time reported on the call, the phone number and name provided on the call were fake, and... I mean did any of you listen to the 911 call? Holy fakey fake call.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:41 AM on September 1, 2016 [15 favorites]


Then I remembered that her name is Kelli with an I, and I thought, "Twenty crisp new American dollars says she and the investigating officer are white." And lo, Google has revealed my prophecy to be true.

Why Google ? The article has pictures of them.
posted by Pendragon at 7:11 AM on September 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


Of course there's a PT Cruiser involved.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:20 AM on September 1, 2016 [15 favorites]


This all sounds like a soap opera, or bad fanfic, or both. And of course Kelli being white and middle-class made a huge difference in how she was treated by the police. But my main takeaway from this story was - the whole war on drugs is such a colossal waste of taxpayer money. Drugs are bad mmmkay was the whole reason why the Easters could use baggies of Vicodin, etc. to frame Kelli. And that led right to this huge expense of an investigation and trial. Legalize all drugs and treat addiction as a public health issue and not a criminal one.

Now I'm thinking of a Game of Thrones crossover fanfic with Cersei as Jill and Sansa as Kelli...
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:42 AM on September 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


Would Kent be Lancel?
posted by LindsayIrene at 7:45 AM on September 1, 2016


Several thoughts:

1. This has been a really depressing year for realizing the truth of that great Kosofsky-Sedgwick axiom, "people are different from each other". "I think we should deport millions of immigrants! Also, building a wall along the border is a great idea!" "I think I'll plant drugs in someone's car because I feel like she insulted my son!" It's like a little trip to an alternate reality - a really depressing, dystopian one. Not that no one in my social circle ever does stupid, mean things, but these are definitely stupid, mean things that reflect a radically different subjectivity.

2. Are, like, low income people and people of color getting framed all the time in petty revenge plots? This woman seems to have had a narrow escape because the system is set up to treat her relatively fairly.
posted by Frowner at 8:00 AM on September 1, 2016 [17 favorites]


Also, the part where framer-dude tries to pin the thing on his Indian neighbor? What the fuck.
posted by Frowner at 8:01 AM on September 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hats and sunscreen aren't enough in the middle of the day, there needs to be shaded outdoor places for kids.

If only there were an all-organic, all-natural, God-given solution to this quandry! Where, oh where will we ever find shade for our children?

This is why I never let my kids outside. iPads and My Little Pony for them, yessir.
posted by joecacti at 8:06 AM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


I grew up in Orange County, a bit north of Irvine, and before the absolute googols of money arrived.

I am, nevertheless, having flashbacks.
posted by allthinky at 8:11 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not arguing with any of the white privilege posts above, but as a point of information Irvine is only 50% Caucasian.

I teach at a school in the area where Mister Easter worked, and while there are definitely people who say and do crazy stuff, the vast majority of our parents are great people, just saying. The difference I think is that people with resources and free time and who are used to getting what they want can create big, big problems.
posted by Huck500 at 8:12 AM on September 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


Man, that's depressing. I hope the framer-couple's kids are okay. If they were so concerned about their kids, why didn't they think "hm, felony charges may impact our ability to maintain a happy home"?
posted by Frowner at 8:16 AM on September 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


What the Easters (apparently) did was crazy and all, but forgetting a kid outside after recess is pretty terrible and I think I'd be angry too if the school was like, oh, 'it was only 5-8 minutes.' That'd probably seem like an eternity to a scared, confused five-year old.

Great yarn though - it's like something out of a Carl Hiassen novel.
posted by Flashman at 8:29 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


How not to frame somebody -- don't call 911 and go "Hey this is Mr. Fake Name, and I just saw [insert name] stash a bunch of drugs in her car. She did it in [specific location] and she is very high right now, too. You should send all of your police officers and arrest her for having drugs, since that's what she has -- drugs -- and she should go to jail for it, too."
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:30 AM on September 1, 2016 [7 favorites]




Revenge plots are so glamorous in fiction; why can't we realize what pathetic wrecks they make in real life? I couldn't quite wait for the ending, so I looked it up to see more of what happened recently, and read here that Jill Easter "now goes by the name Ava Everheart."

I don't know this woman but I recognize her eyes. I've known women with those huge eyes, whose eyebrows, natural or not, always seem to be abnormally high. The eyes look pale because there's so much sclera showing, and the light gleams off of them, not in a sparkly heroine way but in a flat, fluorescent sheen. Someone with those eyes is capable of deciding to do any damn thing.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:52 AM on September 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Someone with those eyes is capable of deciding to do any damn thing.

We should measure the size of her skull, too, see if that provides any insights.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:53 AM on September 1, 2016 [49 favorites]


What the Easters (apparently) did was crazy and all, but forgetting a kid outside after recess is pretty terrible and I think I'd be angry too if the school was like, oh, 'it was only 5-8 minutes.' That'd probably seem like an eternity to a scared, confused five-year old.

Well, yes. At the same time:

1. The school responded by changing its policy to prevent such things in the future.

2. Most of us had a couple of scary confusing things happen to us as kids because adults made mistakes. It's reasonable to try to prevent those things, but not - to my mind -reasonable to assume that hard-working adults with good track records will literally never make a mistake.

3. As a pink collar worker, I've noticed that the lower you are on the ladder the more people expect that you'll never make a mistake. Important person makes a mistake, even a very costly one? Oh well what are you going to do, he's a great colleague, no one's perfect. Check-out clerk makes a small, understandable error? "I'm going to call the store manager and have her fired!". People have boasted on this very website about getting service personnel fired.

So basically, yeah, she made a mistake. She probably felt appropriately bad about it, like "oh, wow, I feel bad, lucky no one was hurt, I will be extra careful going forward!" We all make mistakes. If no one is hurt and the mistaker takes steps to prevent future mistakes, that seems optimal to me.
posted by Frowner at 8:54 AM on September 1, 2016 [75 favorites]


I worked in Irvine for a brief period but worked very hard to rectify that situation as soon as possible.

I have a friend who has achieved tenure at UCI. She rather pointedly has chosen to live outside of OC.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:03 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


the sun protection stuff is considered life and death

Which, frankly, given the absolute rate of melanoma, is just another way for upper-class parents to obsess through an inappropriate vehicle about obtaining an unobtainable safety for their children.

(Don't get me wrong, as I get older, for purely cosmetic reasons I regret my parents' thoroughly cavalier attitude when I was a kid towards sun exposure, but the Death from Above attitude is silly, and, given the possible side effects of chemical sunscreens, I'm not completely sure that we'll find that it improves health overall to be fanatic about avoiding sun exposure.)
posted by praemunire at 9:04 AM on September 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


I have been on the bad side this type of person far too well. It doesn't quite verge on the criminal behavior, but it is still an unpleasant experience.

The more your basic needs are taken care of, the crisis seem to be over ever more minor stuff.
posted by Badgermann at 9:05 AM on September 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Kitten magic is from Australia where melanomas are at least twice as common as they are in the US and 2/3 people will be diagnosed with skin cancer
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:11 AM on September 1, 2016 [14 favorites]


As a pink collar worker, I've noticed that the lower you are on the ladder the more people expect that you'll never make a mistake. Important person makes a mistake, even a very costly one? Oh well what are you going to do, he's a great colleague, no one's perfect. Check-out clerk makes a small, understandable error? "I'm going to call the store manager and have her fired!". People have boasted on this very website about getting service personnel fired.

Oh fuck yes. I've seen it go further than that, too: in law firms, admins are routinely blamed for mistakes that their bosses made. Of course, it never went the other way; when the lawyers scored a win, they never said, "And we couldn't have done it without our fabulous admin!" even when that was actually true. But when they submitted a brief that the court rejected because it ran afoul of the page limit? "She should have noticed that there were too many pages!" I once saw an admin publicly humiliated and then transferred to another department for that reason. It was one of the reasons I left that firm.
posted by holborne at 9:18 AM on September 1, 2016 [27 favorites]


Wow, amazing story - I had never heard about this. Thanks for the link!
posted by jasper411 at 9:31 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


So do we get parts 5 and 6 on Friday and Saturday? Or will they post part 5 on Friday and make us wait until Monday for the final chapter?
posted by hippybear at 9:50 AM on September 1, 2016


This happened at my cousin's kids' school. We've all been really enjoying this series. In fact I was just thinking I should post it, so I'm glad you did.
posted by the marble index at 9:51 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Part 5 friday, Part 6 Sunday.
posted by Roommate at 9:52 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


We should measure the size of her skull, too, see if that provides any insights

Obligatory Simpsons Quote
posted by bitteroldman at 9:56 AM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Today's story left me wanting more - not in the sense of I want to know what happens next, but more detail on the legal maneuvers. Why did the judge disbelieve the confession and refuse to split the trials? What arguments and strategies were used for that? It seems like a vital moment that just got glossed over
posted by nubs at 9:58 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Kent Easter would naturally wish to put her on the stand in his own defense, but couldn’t legally do so if they were put on trial together." This isn't entirely true, so I'm not entirely sure (without doing intense research) the article gets the legal nuances and thus that part of the narrative correct. She couldn't be compelled to testify in a joint trial, because of the potential for self-incrimination, but she could testify voluntarily. (She and her husband would have to get separate representation, but that happens all the time.) And she also couldn't be compelled to testify against herself in a trial of her husband alone unless the potential for self-incrimination had already been eliminated (e.g., with a grant of immunity, or if she had already been convicted). I don't think it had been. So the whole thing sounds odd to me.

(We're still talking less than 2500 deaths a year in Australia from all skin cancers combined, though. Only about a thousand more than die of motor vehicle accidents. Skin cancer as a whole barely makes it in the top 20 causes of death. I mean, no one wants skin cancer regardless! Reasonable preventive measures are a good idea! But "life or death" is an exaggeration. There is a weird narrative around protecting children from sun exposure.)
posted by praemunire at 10:44 AM on September 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


We're still talking less than 2500 deaths a year in Australia from all skin cancers combined, though. Only about a thousand more than die of motor vehicle accidents.

I'd be more interested in incidence of skin cancer (lethal or not) per population of 100,000 in Australia vs incidence of motor vehicle accidents per same population. That's a more interesting metric, IMO. /derail

posted by hippybear at 10:52 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


hippybear, can't you get that by just dividing those numbers by the population of Australia?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:07 AM on September 1, 2016


hippybear is talking about incidence (of skin cancer and car accidents) rather than the number of people who die from those things. Different numbers.
posted by Etrigan at 11:11 AM on September 1, 2016


Seriously it's a derail. I'm making the point that death isn't equal to incidence. It has nothing to do with anything in this series of articles. Except that perhaps incidence of people found with drugs isn't equal to people who end up in jail sentenced with possessing drugs. And even that isn't an actual corollary.

Let's get back to talking about these articles, which I found fascinating! I can't wait for the last two chapters. It's like the text version of Serial!
posted by hippybear at 11:14 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


The most surprising line of the story is that he was arrested driving his Toyota Camry. That's a very non-flashy, down to earth choice for these people.
posted by atomicstone at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


User name Mr. Delicious is still available.
posted by ian1977 at 11:27 AM on September 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


METAFILTER: This all sounds like a soap opera, or bad fanfic, or both.
posted by philip-random at 11:31 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


I also was surprised Easter was driving a Camry. Also a bit surprised the kids were in a public school.
The description of how the angry mom said, "I don't know how you sleep at night" without changing her tone or expression is so creepy! And the convo from her text with her firefighter boyfriend is weird too - what was she expecting him to do for her? That guy's lucky he didn't get the "drugs stashed in car" treatment too.
posted by areaperson at 12:13 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also was surprised Easter was driving a Camry.

It's totally a thing in Newport to drive hybrids and electrics. There were Priuses EVERYWHERE here at that time, and now you see Teslas everywhere. I think a lot of folks here buy a car for commuting, and plug-in hybrids and electrics can get a sticker to go in the carpool lanes solo in California. Prius for the daily, Ferrari for the weekend, giant SUV for the kids. I know of at least 10 families with this arrangement at my school, with some variation on the Ferrari... Maseratis are pretty common.

Oh, and my school is public.
posted by Huck500 at 12:29 PM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


The eyes look pale because there's so much sclera showing

Sanpaku
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:43 PM on September 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Which, frankly, given the absolute rate of melanoma, is just another way for upper-class parents to obsess through an inappropriate vehicle about obtaining an unobtainable safety for their children.

(Don't get me wrong, as I get older, for purely cosmetic reasons I regret my parents' thoroughly cavalier attitude when I was a kid towards sun exposure, but the Death from Above attitude is silly, and, given the possible side effects of chemical sunscreens, I'm not completely sure that we'll find that it improves health overall to be fanatic about avoiding sun exposure.)
I have to say, just be grateful that you have the luxury—privilege?—of being able to be dismissive towards skin cancer due to where you live. If you'd grown up in Australia or New Zealand, you would know that the sun can kill you. And that's not hysteria; it's the simple lived experience of residing in an ozone-depleted area.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:17 PM on September 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Mod note: Folks, point taken but let's draw a line under the sunblock thing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:21 PM on September 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm not arguing with any of the white privilege posts above, but as a point of information Irvine is only 50% Caucasian.

Yeah, these particular people aside Irvine is not particularly white (it's almost 40% Asian/Asian-American) or expensive, certainly not compared to the greater LA/OC area. (If I stay in the US, its on my list to move to because its so much cheaper than the Westside/Central areas of LA, for example -- median house price is like half of Santa Monica).
posted by thefoxgod at 2:50 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fascinating piece, looking forward to the rest!
posted by SarahElizaP at 5:07 PM on September 1, 2016


To those complaining that this story is being reported over several days, that's not a modern clickbait technique. As far as I know that's a newspaper standard for long form reporting. The now-movie-famous Spotlight team at the Boston Globe, for example, does far less scandalous stories than this over 3 days, or with a part two following in a week or so, and sometimes return for follow-up reporting months later. Serial was new in doing it as a podcast, is all. ;-) I think you'd have to be a magazine cover story or something to get the page count at once in a single issue for stories like these.
posted by clauclauclaudia at 5:29 PM on September 1, 2016 [17 favorites]


It boggles the mind that Irvine law enforcement has enough spare time and human power to minutely investigate chippy shit like this, but they still feel the need to maintain a standing SWAT team.

Well, as you read in the article, a sniper on that "standing" SWAT team spends most of his shifts investigating noise complaints, shoplifting, and people reportedly driving weird in an elementary school parking lot.
posted by sideshow at 6:04 PM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


The difference I think is that people with resources and free time and who are used to getting what they want can create big, big problems.


This is the story of my entire fucking career in marketing.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:28 PM on September 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


I've lived in SoCal for only 4 months now and holy Moses the class anxiety is palpable here. It's not just Irvine. Basically where people have a good amount of money (but aren't 1%ers), all they can talk about is what schools their kids are getting into, or how much their house cost. That's why I live in my shitty little working class town.

The article was good but all I was thinking about was that poor kid growing up with whackjob parents like that.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:25 PM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


The email snippet from today's article! All-caps plus 68 exclamation points. O.o
posted by epersonae at 9:02 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


What the Easters (apparently) did was crazy and all, but forgetting a kid outside after recess is pretty terrible and I think I'd be angry too if the school was like, oh, 'it was only 5-8 minutes.'

It wasn't recess, it was an after school program. Still not great, but I think it's much easier to notice a kid has dawdled and missed coming in when there's an empty seat in a classroom.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:28 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


OK, I'll add that to the list of reasons why it was wrong to empathize with the villains.
posted by Flashman at 11:42 AM on September 2, 2016


I was trying to think of who Jill Easter reminded me of, and then it hit me - she resembles a younger, softer-featured Ann Coulter.

There must be a divot on Jill's phone screen where she presses down on the exclamation marks. I think she's setting some kind of record there.

The ones I feel sorry for, besides, Kelli, are the Easter kids. It's not their fault their parents are nuts and dragged down their lives along with them. I hope they have saner relatives or family friends who can give them some kind of lifeline.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:11 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


What the Easters (apparently) did was crazy and all, but forgetting a kid outside after recess is pretty terrible and I think I'd be angry too if the school was like, oh, 'it was only 5-8 minutes.'

I hate to sound like one of those "in my day, we rode our bikes all around the neighborhood without helmets" bores that you see on Facebook, but when I was about the Easter kid's age, I got left behind one day because I was absorbed in the book that I was reading and didn't even notice the schoolbus leaving. I was somewhat mortified because I had to call my mom and ask her to pick me up, but I wasn't, let's see, "the victim of 'false imprisonment' and 'intentional infliction of emotional distress'", nor had I "suffered 'extreme and severe mental anguish,' and I doubt that my parents had the slightest thought to accuse the failure of the bus driver to notice that one of his many charges were gone as being "willful, wanton, malicious, and oppressive, and justify[ing] the awarding of exemplary and punitive damages."
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:30 PM on September 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh my lord, day 5. Jill claiming she's suddenly deaf and needs interpretation--no, not that kind--oh brother. And cell phone pings! And then she tells him to kill himself!
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:37 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think the frame-up was inept. Given the amount of law enforcement scrutiny, it was -- but the Easters had no reason to believe the police and prosecutor wouldn't take everything at face value. Kelli Peters lives in an apartment and sells tie-dyed clothing. This is what made the second prosecutor so angry -- that if any one of several extraordinary decisions had been otherwise (starting with the investigating officer), Peters would have been arrested and convicted. Nine times out of ten -- at least -- this would have succeeded.

But it is inept in the sense that it's insane. Seriously, it's driven by an obsessive narcissistic rage with a completely fucked risk/reward analysis. That one time in ten that the scheme falls apart would (and did) result in negative consequences far out of proportion to whatever they thought they might gain from exacting revenge. The consequences of failure demand that they plan for the unlikely event that the police believe Peters might be innocent, but they didn't.

It really seems to me that Jill is seriously messed-up, and from that perspective the whole thing seems more pitiable than anything else. Yet I felt a powerful schadenfreude reading this because the other huge factor here is the sense that both Easters have of entitlement and superior invulnerabilty. He's a guy who drove around with a "STNFRDJD1" vanity plate. And they schemed and lied to the police and as part of their defense. This is a monstrous amount of hubris that they could somehow avoid the consequences of being repugnant people.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:13 PM on September 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


she's suddenly deaf and needs interpretation--no, not that kind--oh brother

This part confused me. People with hearing loss (which doesn't automatically=no hearing at all) don't automatically know sign language. I'm assuming this was just a ploy since the defense didn't put up much of a fight, but it still bothered me that (at least as presented by the article) the assumption is a sign language interpreter is the only possible accommodation available for the hearing impaired. I'm hoping it's just that the article skimped on some details here.

This is what made the second prosecutor so angry -- that if any one of several extraordinary decisions had been otherwise (starting with the investigating officer), Peters would have been arrested and convicted.

I agree with the overall sentiment, I wouldn't want to be used as an instrument for revenge. But the whole thing fell apart so easily (the timing was so far off she had a clear alibi, no physical evidence tying her directly to the drugs, he took his phone with him to plant the evidence), the decisions made shouldn't be considered extraordinary. If he's so mad that this woman was close to being successfully framed, these assholes are only a small part of the problem.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:25 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I really don't get why the prosecution was apparently allowed to introduce the cell phone data checks in its closing argument. That seems like a massive violation of the accused's ability to examine and rebut evidence.

For that matter, why did the defense gave its closing argument first?
posted by Etrigan at 5:53 PM on September 2, 2016


I'm no legal expert, but my takeaway from the article was that the information presented by the prosecutor was available in the cell phone records that both sides had through both trials; it was only in the second trial that the prosecutor examined it in depth enough to grasp what it meant. So both sides had the information in their possession, just one side actually made use of it. I'm surprised it was allowed in the closing argument, but I'm wondering if there was testimony (or a stipulation) when the records were introduced that made it clear it covered phone locations during the night in question, which allowed the connection to be made? I can see the defence just stipulating to the records during the trial, which might make them fair game as evidence to be analyzed during the close?

As for the prosecutor having the final closing argument, isn't that because they carry the burden of proof and therefore get the last word? I thought I heard or read that somewhere.
posted by nubs at 6:08 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


THIS NO ONE

Good to see it's not a class thing
posted by benzenedream at 6:09 PM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes the prosecution was allowed to provide the new information about the cell-phone location in closing argument because the defense had access to the same information. As the DA pointed out, the defense either did not catch this data or were hoping the prosecution would not catch it. If the evidence had been presented earlier, but after the defendant's testimony that he had nothing to do with planting the drugs, it would have been less effective but still had the same effect of proving he was lying.

What I did not understand is how Jill Easter could confess to planting the drugs by herself but then have this confession kept sealed (in the event that she had been granted a separate trial), only to reveal it while giving testimony in her husband's trial so that they could both be acquitted. The judge wisely rejected the motion, but I don't understand how someone can confess something and yet prevent it from being used as evidence against them.
posted by callistus at 7:06 PM on September 2, 2016


For that matter, why did the defense gave its closing argument first?

Nothing unusual about this at all. Maybe it depends on the jurisdiction, but in the one I live in, the prosecution always gives its closing argument last.
posted by holborne at 7:58 PM on September 2, 2016


A little detail that may interest only me:

Sitting in a windowless office, Jensen, the volunteer special master, combed through 20,000 emails on the BlackBerry, weeding out the thousands that seemed to fall under attorney-client and attorney work-product privilege.

What he was not qualified to do, he told the judge, was to screen the phones for spousal privilege, and with this chore still undone in late October 2011 — more than eight months after the crime — he insisted he was done with the case.


Since the defendants were claiming spousal privilege (and it seems likely the most relevant texts would be between the two of them), wouldn't it make sense to have the special master be someone who was qualified to screen for spousal privilege? Were there no volunteer special masters who had experience in the area? As someone who's done electronic doc review for more than ten years now, this seems like a very weird and inefficient way to handle these emails.

Also, man, that email in Part 5! I'm LOL'ing at her "perfect crime" fantasies. She created an electronic record of how much she wanted revenge against her victim. I'm pretty sure that people who commit perfect crimes, or close-to-perfect crimes don't do stuff like that.
posted by creepygirl at 8:46 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Its not Sunday yet, but chapter 6 is up now! Just starting to read it!
posted by TedW at 7:46 PM on September 3, 2016


OK, done reading. What a fucked up scenario. But even as we mock the Easters and revel in schadenfreude at their fate, Ms. Peters and her family still suffer from the fallout of the whole escapade. Not sure what the solution is, but I think that it is important to remember that as with many of the FPPs involving crimes lately, even if the perpetrators are brought to justice, the victims can often never be made whole. And it has been mentioned above, but there are many details in this case that had they been even slightly different, would have resulted in a much worse outcome.
posted by TedW at 8:06 PM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


From the final installment:

Ask Kent Easter about it today, and he answers in urbane, unfailingly polite tones that his criminal defense was a pack of lies and distortions, that he demonized his wife, that he pressured her into pleading guilty in the hope he might go free. Nor was he her dupe. “She was made out to be a cartoonish villainess,” he says. “This master-planner ice queen from ‘Gone Girl’ — it makes this great archetype. She writes these crime novels and planned this whole thing. But it’s just absolutely not true.”
posted by lukemeister at 8:43 PM on September 3, 2016


Oh, my:
To celebrate the verdict, Kelli Peters’ friends threw her a party. They had bought a heart-shaped pinata and decorated it with blown-up copies of the Easters’ mug shots.

Someone gave Peters a stick. She held it tentatively, embarrassed, and administered some half-hearted thwacks. Her daughter, now 15, took the stick. The girl whose childhood had been blighted by the ordeal told her mother to step back. Some of the people in the room were laughing, and some of the same people were already beginning to cry.

She swung the stick full-force. Paydays and 100 Grand bars tumbled through the gash.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:52 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I read this article via a FB post last week. My kid just started Kindergarten at a public school that is demographically very similar to the area in the story and which has a high level of parent participation; this article has pretty much talked me right the eff out of signing up for any significant volunteer position.
posted by vignettist at 10:11 PM on September 3, 2016


As someone who volunteers at my kids' elementary school, this was chilling. Kelli Peters was damned lucky the cop who interviewed her was a veteran, not a rookie.

Thanks for posting this series. Excellent reporting and a fascinating read.
posted by zarq at 1:58 PM on September 4, 2016


Were this not real life, this would be the schlockiest pulp novel or TV series ever. I feel slimy just reading it.
posted by salvia at 7:47 PM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, was this written to make you feel bad for Kent Easter? Or was the goal to make you wonder if he really was more of the bad guy than you originally thought? The reporter mentions the inconsistencies in his story but did such a good job painting him as the underdog that I continue to feel bad for him.
posted by salvia at 7:48 PM on September 5, 2016


Weirder and weirder by the second. Though I'm not surprised that Easter can't pay up at this point.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:16 PM on September 5, 2016


Ken Easter seems like he firmly believes three things:

a. his ex-wife was an ideal partner and he is worthless
b. he is blameless and his ex-wife is without value
c. he is capable of convincing everyone else to believe these same two assertions at the same time like he does

His mind is being spun by the meshing gears of his and Jill's/Ava's narcissism with so much torque that the momentum of the idealization and devaluing stages is carrying him right past the normal discard stage.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:48 PM on September 5, 2016


"Also, was this written to make you feel bad for Kent Easter? Or was the goal to make you wonder if he really was more of the bad guy than you originally thought? The reporter mentions the inconsistencies in his story but did such a good job painting him as the underdog that I continue to feel bad for him."

I never felt bad for him. But I think this was written so as to encourage the reader to see Jill as the (low stakes) femme fatale with Kent dragged along, only to discover the twist at the end that he is as nuts and sociopathic as she is, and possibly worse. My opinion is that they are very toxic people who reinforced each other.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:17 PM on September 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


The saddest thing about this whole sick story is that as the understaffed Los Angeles Times shrinks to unheard of levels under its neglectful out-of-state ownership, editorial chooses to dedicate limited resources to something with so little hard news value.

I wonder if corporate holds the film rights?
posted by Scram at 8:47 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Really? That's the saddest thing about this story?
posted by bongo_x at 11:25 AM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Frankly, I'm surprised they haven't brought more charges against him, especially based on his admission that he knowingly falsified evidence that was introduced in court (the email), which is in and of itself a separate felony.
posted by likeatoaster at 4:57 PM on September 6, 2016


I don't think the frame-up was inept. Given the amount of law enforcement scrutiny, it was -- but the Easters had no reason to believe the police and prosecutor wouldn't take everything at face value.

Cell phone records, DNA evidence, and CCTV tapes aren’t secret weapons. They are known tool of law enforcement. Even if they believe the police won’t make full use of these tools, it’s inept to make no attempt to foil them.

I would consider their frame‐up inept for anyone living in a developed country in the twenty‐first century, but especially for a couple of lawyers.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 5:44 PM on September 6, 2016


I see it the other way around - a pair of lawyers (he's a litigator, though civil) are more likely to know how the system actually works. And the system almost never gives someone the benefit of doubt about an offense like this as it did Peters in this exceptional case. I wrote "nine times out of ten" but I really think that it's more like that 95 times in a 100 would have Peters been arrested, pled to a misdemeanor and got mild probation, and lost her PTA position and respect in the community ... which was the Easters' goal. They had very little reason to believe they wouldn't get away with this.

But, as I said, and in agreement with your point, only the smallest skepticism would have (and did) open the door to the frame-up falling apart catastrophically for them and so in my opinion a 95% success rate of the basic scheme in no way can justify how easily it could unravel and how dire the consequences could be. And so in the larger analysis, they were inept. There's a lot of people for whom a 95% success rate would be much more reasonable. But not the Easters, they had too much to lose.

In this respect I think they're like most criminals who get caught -- their risk/reward ratio is seriously messed-up and this indicates a pathological disregard of risk or a history of being insulated from negative consequences, or both. Probably more the latter than the former in this case, but there really does seem to me to be an underlying impulse control problem, too.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:33 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Cell phone records, DNA evidence, and CCTV tapes aren’t secret weapons. They are known tool of law enforcement.

Lawyers are painfully aware that the main fiction of CSI is that anyone really cares enough to go to all that trouble, especially when there's an obvious answer. Cops hear "Those drugs you found in my car aren't my drugs!" frequently enough that there's a pretty good chance they won't bother taking any more effort than saying "Really?"

So the Easters took some half-assed precautions (e.g., he went to a nearby hotel to make the call, just so it wouldn't be matched to him in a cursory examination) and assumed that the cops would half-ass it as well, and even if they didn't arrest Peters, they wouldn't bother searching for the grand conspiracy, and they certainly wouldn't think that a pair of upstanding* lawyers would have anything to do with it.

* -- Everyone is upstanding in their own story.
posted by Etrigan at 6:43 PM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


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