LEXINGTON, Neb. A teacher accused of running away with a 13-year-old student planned a romantic life with him in his native Mexico, but she was near broke when they were captured there, authorities said Saturday.
Their border crossing during a week on the lam may mean the teen, an illegal immigrant, will not be able to come back to the rural Nebraska town where he was an eighth-grader.
The boy's relatives told police he had called home asking for money, leading investigators to a shopping mall in the border city of Mexicali on Friday. Kelsey Peterson, 25, and Fernando Rodriguez, 13, were taken into custody without incident in the parking lot.
Peterson, a sixth-grade math teacher and basketball coach at Lexington Middle School, fled with the boy after police began investigating whether the pair had an intimate relationship, authorities said. Court documents said the boy was last seen Oct. 26.
An international hunt was under way after Peterson's car was spotted crossing into Mexico on Tuesday.
"They didn't have a very well-defined plan, it was basically to continue driving into Mexico to hide," said Alfredo Arenas, the Baja California state police official who detained Peterson. "This was a mutual agreement to flee after the story came out that they were having sex."
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who may be victims of sex crimes, but the boy's name had been widely publicized as police searched for him.
Peterson was turned over to the FBI early Saturday. The boy was turned over to relatives in Mexicali because he was an illegal immigrant in the United States and was not allowed to return, Arenas said.
Fernando's uncle, Pedro Raya, said he spoke to the boy Saturday and they agreed he would go to the family's rural hometown in the southern state of Guanajuato, mainly because of his immigration status.
Dawson County Attorney Elizabeth Waterman said Saturday she knew about Fernando's immigration status but did not know how it was going to affect her case against Peterson.
"That's one of the things we need to evaluate so I really don't have an answer at this time," Waterman said. "I don't know if that information is completely accurate or if that's subject to change, but we're dealing with that."
Peterson is charged with kidnapping, child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Nebraska. She's also faces federal charges of transporting a minor across state lines or a foreign border for sexual activity, U.S. Attorney Joe Stecher said.
Stecher said he didn't intend to double-prosecute Peterson, and would work with Waterman to decide in which jurisdiction she would face charges.
Court documents showed authorities had recovered several e-mails and letters in which Peterson and the boy professed their affection for one another.
In letters, the boy called Peterson his "Baby Gurl" and said their relationship was "just not about the sex but that it was pretty good," according to the court documents.
Fernando was an eighth-grader at Lexington Middle School, but district Superintendent Todd Chessmore said Rodriguez had been in Peterson's 6th-grade math class. He said he placed Peterson on paid administrative leave on Oct. 25.
Peterson's school-issued laptop contained letters to the student, including one from April saying she loved him, thought he loved her, was "100 percent faithful" to him and would always be faithful, the court documents state.
Laura Rodriguez also said the family believed Peterson gave the boy a cell phone without his family's knowledge so she could reach him more easily. There was no response to messages left for a cell phone listed to a Kelsey Peterson of Lexington.