Woman once on Death Row to Go Free

On Monday, after being behind bars for 27 years, Paula Cooper will walk out of an Indiana prison. Cooper was just 16 years old in 1986 when she became the youngest person in the U.S. on death row. Monday she becomes a free person.

When she does walk free, one of her allies will be an unlikely one, Bill Pelke, who is the grandson of the woman Cooper killed.

The relationship of the two families started in 1985 when Cooper was just 15 and she came up with a plan with her friends to steal money.

After they smoked marijuana and drank wine, the group went to Ruth Pelke’s home. Pelke was a Bible teacher who at the time was 78 years of age.

The group was armed with just a knife. Pelke was struck by Cooper with a vase and she cut Pelke’s arms and legs with the knife and stabbed her in her stomach and chest 33 times, according to court records from Indiana. In all, the group made off with the sum of $10.

Cooper was sentenced by a judge in Indiana to death at 16 years of age in July of 1986.

Over two million people however signed a petition requesting that the Supreme Court in Indiana overturn the death sentence imposed on Cooper. Even Pope John Paul II appealed personally to the governor of Indiana on behalf of Cooper.

However, Cooper’s most surprising supporter was Bill Pelke the grandson who said he had forgiven Cooper for murdering his grandmother just three months after she had been sentenced to death.

In 1989, the Supreme Court reversed Cooper’s death sentence to 60 years. Cooper is scheduled to meet Pelke when she is freed so he can buy her a computer so they can continue communicating via email.