Paula Cooper was 16 when she was sentenced to Death Row for the murder of Bible teacher Ruth Pelke, 78 in 1986. Cooper was the youngest person in the United States to be on Death Row. This week, after Cooper served 27 years of her sentence, she walked out of Indiana’s Rockville Correctional Facility, a free woman. The most shocking part of her release? Ruth Pelke’s grandson, Bill Pelke supported her release!
A 15-year-old Cooper planned to steal money with her friends. After a night of drinking and smoking marijuana, Cooper and her friends broke into Ruth’s home, armed with a knife. After a struggle where Ruth was struck with a vase and stabbed 33 times, Cooper and her friends only scored a mere $10.
While this story is extremely disturbing and even painful to hear, Pelke is still able to demonstrate one of the most endearing displays of forgiveness I’ve ever experienced. “I became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that my grandmother would have had love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family. I felt she wanted someone in my family to have that same sort of love and compassion. I didn’t have any but was so convinced that’s what she would have wanted, I begged God to give me love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family and do that on behalf of my grandmother,” he told CNN.
Pelke developed a relationship with Cooper eight years after she entered the prison and over the years, the two unlikely friends exchanged messages on a weekly basis. By 1989, the Indiana Supreme Court reduced Cooper’s death sentence to 60 years in prison. Pelke wants to help Cooper with her life outside of prison. “I hope that we’re able to go out and have a meal. I’ve told her when she got out of prison I’d like to buy her a computer and I have a friend that would like to buy her some clothes. Hopefully we’ll get together within the next few days and go shopping,” he said.
While it’s not being reported how Cooper was released from her Death Row sentence, turned 60-year sentence, Belke’s forgiveness played a major role in her release. He claims that Cooper knows she was wrong and has to live with it for the rest of her life. Apparently Cooper wants to give back and worth with young people to get them to avoid the same type of pitfalls she’s fell into.
What an amazing story! I have been able to forgive my brother’s murderer, but I want nothing to do with his life. I commend Pelke for being so strong. Wow!
What do you think about Pelke and Cooper’s story?
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