Video: Student missing; teacher wanted

updated 11/2/2007 9:47:15 PM ET 2007-11-03T01:47:15

A female teacher and a 13-year-old boy believed to be on the run may have crossed the California border into Mexico, a police investigator said Friday.

Paul Schwarz of the Lexington Police Department in Nebraska said the white Pontiac owned by 25-year-old Kelsey Peterson crossed into Mexico around 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

Police told KRVN-AM in Lexington the pair crossed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, which separates San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.

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.

Authorities believed the two were traveling in Peterson’s car, and police nationwide and the FBI were notified about them. Court documents said the boy was last seen Oct. 26.

A judge issued an arrest warrant Monday charging Peterson with kidnapping, child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Peterson also now faces federal charges, including transporting a minor across state lines or a foreign border for sexual activity, U.S. Attorney Joe Stecher said. Those charges were filed Thursday.

“The FBI is doing what we need to do to make the Mexican authorities aware that she is wanted,” Stecher said.

The boy, Fernando Rodriguez, was an eighth-grader at the school, but district Superintendent Todd Chessmore said he wasn’t sure whether Peterson had been his teacher.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who may be victims of sex crimes, but the boy’s name has been widely publicized as police search for him.

Cops: Boy contacted aunt over visas
According to court documents, Fernando’s aunt Laura Rodriguez told police that she talked to her nephew by phone after he disappeared, and he asked her whether a visa or passport was required to travel to Mexico.

Vince Bond, a spokesman with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in San Diego, said he did not have information about the alleged crossing.

Bond said an automated system scans the license plates of all vehicles passing through the entry point, but cars typically aren’t stopped on the way out because “our focus is on what’s entering the United States.”

“It’s a high-speed freeway and it goes right into Mexico,” Bond said.

FBI spokeswoman Carrie Sawicki in Omaha said that under standard procedure, authorities would work with FBI officials in Mexico as well as Mexican authorities. She referred further questions to Dawson County Attorney Elizabeth Waterman, who did not immediately return messages seeking comment Friday.

Court documents showed authorities had recovered several e-mails and letters in which Peterson and the boy professed their affection for one another.

Boy in letter: It's ‘just not about the sex’
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.

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 told KRVN-AM that the family believed Peterson gave the boy a cell phone without his family’s knowledge so she could reach him more easily. Messages left on a cell phone for a Kelsey Peterson of Lexington weren’t returned.

Chessmore said the district was in the process of disciplining Peterson but would not give any details, citing state laws. Peterson was licensed by the state to teach kindergarten through sixth grade in 2004, the same year she started teaching at the middle school.

Lexington, a farming and meatpacking town of about 10,000, is about 220 miles west of Omaha in central Nebraska.

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