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Youngest Person on Death Row Released from Prison
Written by Nicole Porter
Last updated on June 17, 2013 @ 7:10PM
Created on June 17, 2013 @ 6:35PM

When you're 16, you're learning how to drive a car and generally enjoying high school; however, for one 16-year-old Indiana teenager, she was getting accustomed to her prison cell on death row in 1986. After 27 years behind bars, Paula Cooper is a free woman.

The murder victim's grandson was actually supportive of Cooper's release. In fact,  Bill Pelke said he forgave Cooper three months after she was sentenced to death row.

Decades ago, then-15-year-old Cooper and her friends devised a plan to steal money. After smoking marijuana and drinking, they went to 78-year-old Ruth Pelke's home with a knife. Cooper hit Pelke with a vase, cut her arms and legs, then stabbed her 33 times. All they got away with was $10.

In July of 1986, a judge sentenced Cooper to the death penalty. More than 2 million people signed a petition to overturn her sentence and Pope John Paul II even appealed to the Indiana governor. The death sentence was reversed in 1989 to 60 years in prison.

Here's the twist, the same year Cooper was originally sentenced is when Bill Pelke tried to visit his grandmother's murderer. They officially met 8 years later and they had been sending messages through the prison system weekly. On Sunday, he said they're supposed to meet up and go shopping and he wants to buy her a computer.


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