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Indiana Woman Who Received Death Sentence At 16 To Be Released

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Bill Pelke, right, holds a picture of his late grandmother, Ruth. (CBS)

Bill Pelke, right, holds a picture of his late grandmother, Ruth. (CBS)

Brad Edwards Brad Edwards
Brad Edwards is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. He...
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(CBS) — It was a crime that stunned a nation. It even rose to the Pope’s attention as a 16-year-old girl was sentenced to death for killing a bible school teacher in cold blood.

In a follow up to an original report, Brad Edwards reports the girl once sentenced to death goes free tomorrow. Paula Cooper, from teenage girl, to grown woman, is about to get her second chance.

In Gary, Indiana, in 1985, four teenage girls approached Ruth Pelke, a Bible school teacher who invited them in.

“At first we just knew she had died. Then we found out she had been stabbed 33 times with a 12 inch butcher knife. I guess my greatest concern was for my father who found my grandmother’s body. For my mom,” said Bill Pelke, the victim’s grandson.

Bill Pelke spoke to CBS 2 from his home in Anchorage Alaska.

Ruth Pelke was stabbed 33 times for 10 bucks, and her car keys. Ring leader Cooper was sentenced to die and the grandson became Cooper’s greatest advocate.

“I became beyond a shadow of a doubt that my grandmother would actually have love and compassion for this girl on death row,” said Bill Pelke.

The Pope even pushed to spare Paula’s Coopers life.

“America: Defend life,” said Pope John Paul II.

For years she awaited the cold flicker of the electric chair and is now being released.

A support system of social workers awaits, and she’s become quite a cook in her quarter century confined.

“I think every good thing she does will bring honor to my grandmother. I want to see her do a lot of good things,” said Bill Pelke.

Bill Pelke will be here this week to meet with Paula Cooper upon her release. and he vows his support as she re-enters society — 28 years after she killed his grandmother.

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