Indiana Woman Sentenced To Death At 16 Will Be Released

An Indiana woman who was sentenced to death at age 16 for killing a Bible school teacher will be released from prison Monday.

Paula Cooper and three other teenage girls came to Ruth Pelke’s house on May 14, 1985 with plans of robbing her. The four girls told the 78-year-old that they were interested in Bible lessons and she let them into her home.

Cooper ended up stabbing Pelke 33 times with a butcher knife before stealing her car and $10. After she admitted to stabbing the elderly woman, Cooper was convicted of murder and sentenced to die.

Although some people believe Cooper deserved to die for committing such a brutal crime, many human rights activists were enraged by the harsh punishment. Even Pope John Paul II urged that Cooper be granted clemency in 1987.

The Indiana Supreme Court set Cooper’s death sentence aside in 1988 and gave her 60 years in prison after state legislators changed the state’s minimum age for execution from 10 to 16.

Rhonda Labroi, Cooper’s sister, said that she wants people to see Cooper as more than just a killer. “Give her an opportunity. Maybe she’ll do some wonderful things for children who are growing up and aren’t so fortunate, like she was,” she said.

“It seems like God has given her another chance. I think if people give her a second chance, she’ll do fine,” Labroi added.

Even Pelke’s grandson, Bill Pelke, is a supporter of Cooper’s. “I think every good thing she does will bring honor to my grandmother. I want to see her do a lot of good things,” he said.

Pelke will meet with Cooper upon her release and will support her as she reenters society.

Do you think Cooper deserves to be released from prison? Or do you think she should have to serve the rest of her sentence for killing Pelke?

[Image via Shuttershock]