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Indiana Woman Who Received Death Sentence At 16 Released From Prison

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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)

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(CBS) – The first taste of freedom in 27 years, that’s what a 43-year-old woman from Gary, Indiana is enjoying tonight, after going to prison for murder. Roseanne Tellez reports, she has an unlikely supporter as she starts her new life: her victim’s grandson.

At 16, Paula Cooper was the youngest death row inmate in the country, her future bleak, after being convicted in the murder of a 78-year-old grandmother and bible teacher from Gary. But today, she is free.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for several years,” said Bill Pelke, the victim’s grandson.

And Bill Pelke, who lives in Alaska, traveled to Chicago hoping to help Cooper begin her new life.

“I did say that when she got out, I would get her a computer and I have a friend who would like to take her shopping to get her a set clothes,” said Pelke.

But why? Pelke says forgiving Cooper, has cancelled out painful memories of his grandmother’s brutal stabbing death.

“Whenever I think about my grandmother again, I no longer picture how she died, but I picture how she lived, what she stood for and the beautiful wonderful person she was,” said Pelke.

Pelke has corresponded with Cooper over the years and even visited her in jail. He says she still has the greatest burden to bear.

“She’s very remorseful for what she did. She says if she could take it back, she would in a heart-beat. She knows she can’t. She knows she’ll have to live with it for the rest of her life,” said Pelke.

Pelke had wanted to be at the release today, but he tells CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez Cooper’s mother requested that only family be present. He hopes to take her on that shopping trip in a few days.

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