Medical examiner says mayor in suburban Dallas killed herself; daughter’s death was homicide

By Elida S. Perez, AP
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Medical examiner: Texas mayor’s death was suicide

COPPELL, Texas — The mayor of an upscale Dallas suburb, whose body was found with that of her 19-year-old daughter, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the medical examiner’s office said Wednesday. Her daughter’s death has been ruled a homicide.

Police found the bodies of Coppell Mayor Jayne Peters and her daughter Corinne at their home after the usually prompt mayor failed to show up at a city council meeting.

City spokeswoman Sharon Logan said there were no signs of forced entry. Police have not said if they believe the deaths were a murder-suicide.

Bob Mahalik, mayor pro tem who is now acting mayor of the city, said council members were shocked when they learned of the deaths.

“Everybody in the room is like, ‘Did we miss a sign?’” Mahalik said. “It’s hard to wrap your arms around it.”

The circumstances of the shootings remained unclear. Coppell police declined to release additional information.

Mahalik said he had a gut feeling something wasn’t right when the 55-year-old mayor didn’t turn up for the meeting.

“But nowhere in your wildest dreams did you think it would be that far not right,” he said.

By late Wednesday morning, a small collection of flowers, wreaths and cards decorated the front porch of the Peters’ home. A printed letter said: “Please know that you are loved no matter what happens. I know that God is with you and giving you comfort. You both are with Don, a wonderful husband and father. A family again.”

The mayor’s husband, Donald Peters, died in 2008 at the age of 58.

Jayne Peters was a contract software developer who had served as mayor of Coppell, a city of about 40,000 located 15 miles northwest of Dallas, for a year. Her term was to expire in 2012. She had been a council member since 1998.

“This is a tremendous loss for the city, the community and the region,” said City Manager Clay Phillips.

The elder Peters attended Miami University in Ohio. In her official biography on the city’s website, she said “Coppell is a community with a huge heart, and we take care of one another.”

“She enjoyed what she was doing as mayor and she was good at what she did,” said Mahalik, who last saw Peters waving and passing out candy at the city’s July 4 parade. “She attended almost everything, every ribbon-cutting, speaking at the schools, the chamber, regional meetings.”

Todd Storch, of Coppell, had known Peters for about a year. When his 13-year-old daughter died in a skiing accident in March, Peters was there for him and his family and later took a spot on the foundation he formed in his daughter’s name to increase awareness for organ donation.

“She was just one of those rocks that was always there. We kind of grieved together,” Storch said.

Corinne Peters graduated from Coppell High School this year. A classmate said she was bound for the University of Texas at Austin, and neighbors said the mother and daughter seemed happy and normal.

“That’s what makes it really sad,” said a neighbor, Stephanie Roberts. “She had her life ahead of her.”

Her Facebook page shows a smiling girl in a white top and details her interests in movies and television comedies.

“Corinne was an outstanding student and gifted dancer with a big heart,” said Jessica Doty, a spokeswoman for the Coppell school district. Doty called Jayne Peters a “dedicated school volunteer.”

“She was the nicest person to everyone,” said Sterling Von Strohe, a classmate. “Her mom was so sweet.”

Corinne Peters and her mother lived alone in their 3,850 square-foot brick home with a spa and pool.

Associated Press reporters Jeff Carlton and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.


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