Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Sex Offenders

New Chapter:
Thoughts Become Destiny

Kelsey Peterson
Kelsey Peterson

Female sexual predators rarely give much evidence of forethought to what they would do once they seduce their target. They're often too immersed in romantic fantasy to grasp what may lie ahead. Kelsey Peterson was a 25-year-old girls' basketball coach and sixth grade math teacher at Lexington Middle School in Lexington, Neb. She allegedly became infatuated with a 13-year-old boy in the eighth grade, who was taking math with her in her lower level class. By some reports, they were involved for months.

Eventually officials received complaints about Peterson's behavior, presumably in relation to the boy, and confiscated her school-issued computer and placed her on paid leave. According to the Associated Press, authorities opened an investigation based on revealing e-mails between Peterson and the boy, which precipitated the pair's flight to Mexico on October 26, 2007. Police searched Peterson's home and found several love letters. The FBI was called in, and a nationwide manhunt was on for yet another female teacher turned predator involved with an underage child.

The boy himself revealed in emails that their relationship was sexual, so there was solid ground for charges. Peterson had written her own incriminating messages, assuring the victim that she was being "100% faithful." The boy's family said that the relationship had begun last year, becoming obsessive as the two spent increasingly more time together. Relatives had reportedly tried without success to end it, although there was no word that they had reported Peterson to school officials. One relative told reporters that Peterson had given the boy a cell phone so they could secretly call each other.

On October 28, a judge issued an arrest warrant, charging Peterson with kidnapping, child abuse, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Two days later, an automated system at the border between California and Mexico registered the license number on Peterson's car. Now she faced federal charges of transporting him over state lines for sex, and into foreign territory. The boy, revealed to have been an illegal alien, had relatives in Mexico. From the border town of Mexicali, he phoned a relative from a shopping mall to ask for money. The family alerted authorities, who went that Friday evening to the mall and spotted Peterson's car in a parking lot. She was in it alone.

A special unit from the Baja California state police approached her, but she denied being the woman they sought. They showed her the "Wanted" poster that featured her photo, and she then surrendered. The boy then came out from his nearby hiding place. He told police that their plan had been simply to keep driving deeper into Mexico and eventually set up a life together somewhere. They had no specific plan and little money — about $400 — so he had called to get more.

Peterson was arrested and returned to the U.S. The boy, however, remained in Mexico, in the custody of his relatives, and it's likely he will be unable to return legally to the U.S. He would be able to re-enter as a crime victim on a special visa if he agreed to assist the prosecution, but once the case were resolved the visa would expire.

Peterson, an unmarried native of the area, herself graduated from Lexington High in 2000. As a student, she had been a member of the National Honor Society and the Future Educators of America. She had a child while in high school, now eight, who did not reside with her at the time of her flight.

Several MySpace watchers pointed to Peterson's page, which ironically carried the advice, typed all in caps: "Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. Watch your character for it becomes your destiny." At her first court hearing in California, she remained silent.

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