Texas mayor believed to have killed self, daughter, had financial trouble, grieved for spouse
COPPELL, Texas – A Dallas area mayor who authorities believe killed herself and her daughter left a note saying the two were still grieving over the 2008 death of their husband and father from cancer, police said Friday.
"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 let me die?' We hadn't slept at all and neither one of us could stop crying when we were together," read a typed note that police found in the kitchen.
The note, which also gave instructions on how to care for the family's two dogs and four cats, was among four that police found Tuesday when they discovered the bodies of Coppell Mayor Jayne Peters, 55, and her 19-year-old daughter, Corinne.
Both women had been shot in the head. The Dallas County Medical Examiners Office has ruled the elder Peters' death a suicide and the daughter's death a homicide.
Police arrived at the home after the usually prompt mayor failed to show up for a city meeting. They found an envelope taped to the door containing a house key and typed note that said: "To our first responders, Here is the key for the front door. I am so very sorry for what you're about to discover. Please forgive me. Jayne."
Another typed note left in the kitchen listed contact numbers of family members. It also said, "Please, please, please, no funeral, no memorial — just cremate us both." A handwritten note on the door of the bathroom where the mayor's body was found was signed by her and said not to resuscitate.
Along with her grief, recent evidence also revealed that the mayor had financial troubles.
At a Friday afternoon funeral service for the two, Peters' pastor said the mayor tried to hide her financial problems from her daughter after the death of her husband.
"Jayne was a deeply troubled and, finally, desperate soul," Rev. Dennis Wilkinson said during the service at First United Methodist Church in Coppell, adding that his comments had been approved by the family.
"When he died, they were left with no other resources," Wilkinson said. "She wanted to protect her daughter from knowing about her financial problems and thinking badly of her father."
City Manager Clay Phillips said he had been asking the mayor since November about at least $4,000 in questionable charges on her city-issued credit card. Phillips said there appeared to be personal charges for items such as clothing and pet supplies. He said he had sent her an e-mail about the issue on Monday and asked the city attorney to look into the matter on Tuesday.
City officials released a report for the second quarter of 2010 that included more than 40 items and services that the city paid on the mayor's behalf. Among them were three charges totaling more than $1,700 to a rental car agency in suburban Dallas and three charges totaling more than $500 at a Coppell grocery store.
The report also shows that Peter reimbursed the city for $361.
The Dallas Morning News reported Friday that the Peters' home, appraised at nearly $423,000, had been posted for foreclosure last July, but never made it to auction, according to the Foreclosure Listing Service.
Deputy Police Chief Steve Thomas said the weapon used was a Glock 17 9mm pistol, which he said the mayor borrowed from Cedar Hill Mayor Rob Franke. Thomas said that Franke told police after the shooting that Peters had asked about getting a concealed handgun permit and the two had gone to a shooting range for target practice July 8. Peters left the shooting range with his weapon, saying she wanted to borrow it for a class.
Franke did not immediately return a call Friday from The Associated Press. But he told the Dallas Morning News that Peters told him she didn't want to actually own a gun and just wanted the permit.
"You always go through thinking about the what ifs," Franke told the newspaper. "I just thought I was doing a favor for a friend."
Thomas said Franke would not face any charges.
The mayor had been a contract software developer who had served on the city council for a decade before being elected mayor in 2009.
Her daughter had recently told friends that she was heading to the University of Texas at Austin in the fall, but a UT spokesman said the school had no record of her applying.
Neighbor Diane Ianni has said that Corinne was excited and had been wearing shirts with the university's longhorn logo and colors.
Thomas said a neighbor saw Corinne putting things in her car at 6 a.m. the morning before she was killed. Shortly after she placed them in her car, the elder Peters was seen taking the items back into their home, Thomas said.
Thomas said the investigation into the deaths is ongoing. He said a prescription for medication to treat depression was found at the home, but he wasn't sure for whom it was prescribed. He also said that the elder Peters' work and personal computers have been taken as evidence.
"This agency and this city is going to get as many answers as we possibly can, and it's not going to happen overnight," he said.
Coppell is a city of about 40,000, located 15 miles northwest of Dallas.
Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle, Jeff Carlton and Danny Robbins contributed to this report from Dallas.