ST. LOUIS • A pregnant school teacher was found fatally shot Thursday in her apartment in the 4200 block of West Pine Boulevard, police said Friday.
Detectives did not confirm the case as a homicide until Friday. The victims were Jocelyn Peters, 30, a third-grade teacher at Mann Elementary School, a public school south of Tower Grove Park, and her female fetus, police said. The child was due in about two months.
Police said her boyfriend found Peters unconscious in her bed about 3:15 p.m. Thursday. She had suffered a gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her boyfriend was Cornelius Green, the principal at Carr Lane Visual and Performing Arts Middle School, said Lacey Peters, Jocelyn’s mother, by phone on Friday. The couple had a baby registry asking for items such as bibs, butterfly dresses and pink booties.
Green could not be reached by phone on Friday.
A police statement said officers found no weapon at the scene nor any sign of forced entry. The apartment is in the Central West End.
Jocelyn Peters made the education of children her mission, said Lacey Peters.
Peters wasn’t the type to go out clubbing or do other things like that, her mother said. Instead, she tutored children and spent time with her family, playing Monopoly and sharing pizza. She also liked to read, especially mystery books, Lacey Peters said.
“She was a very great schoolteacher,” Lacey Peters said. “She was real nice, happy go lucky, a big believer in education.”
She went to church every Sunday at The Journey church in Tower Grove and sang in choir, Lacey Peters added.
“I’m numb,” she said, her voice quivering on the phone.
Also reached by phone on Friday, Peters’ grandmother, Avis Peters, broke down sobbing as she described a young woman devoted to working with young children, especially those who have experienced trauma.
“This is just too hard, I can’t take this,” she said. “She was born and raised in the church. She’d been volunteering since she was 12. That’s who she was.”
Avis Peters added that her granddaughter had been an honor student at Brentwood High School before enrolling at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she also excelled.
For the past five years Jocelyn Peters worked as a teacher for St. Louis Public Schools. She taught at Mann Elementary, a neighborhood school that has shown significant gains in attendance and academic performance and is considered one of the city’s most improved elementary schools.
Peters went out of her way to not just help children learn, but feel validated and understood, said Maryanne Dersch, the mother of a student. Peters had visited Dersch’s house for two years to tutor her son, AJ Schmuke, three times a week, and still tutored him every week even after he moved on to the next grade.
She helped AJ, who has a learning disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, gain confidence and believe he could be a leader, Dersch said.
“She just really knew how to validate his feelings. She always had his best interest at heart,” Dersch said. “She was just a wonderful influence on his life.”
Dersch said what happened to Jocelyn Peters is impossible for her to believe. She can’t figure out yet how to tell her son.
“She was just so beautiful. Not just beautiful-looking, but like, this beautiful person,” Dersch said. “She just had a very decent soul. It’s just really tragic, and she was so young.”
Ken Grigsby works at West Pine Group Home, a residential facility next door to Peters’ apartment building.
Grigsby said balloons had decorated the front of the building recently, presumably marking Peters’ baby shower.
“It was shocking for us and some of the neighbors to see this happen,” he said, adding that the street is a quiet one, with many students from Washington University and St. Louis University.
City schools were on spring break this week. Patrick W. Wallace, a spokesman, said the district is “saddened” at the news and will have a crisis response team at Mann Elementary, at 4047 Juniata Street, “to provide support to students and staff on Monday when school resumes.”
Koran Addo and Jesse Bogan of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report