By Brad Edwards

(CBS) — It was a beautiful day in May 1985. Sunday School teacher Ruth Pelke may have welcomed the girls into her home.

The 78-year-old was stabbed to death for $10 and her car keys.

“It was unbelievable,” says Pelke’s grandson Bill, now in Anchorage, Alaska.  “As the time progressed it got worse and worse. We found out she had been stabbed 33 times with a 12 inch butcher knife.”

Bill Pelke’s father discovered the bloodied body on Adams Street in Gary, Ind.

“My greatest concern was for my father who found my grandmother’s body,” Pelke says, choking up.

The culprits: four teenage girls. Ringleader Paula Cooper, 15, was sentenced to death.

The punishment eventually got the ear of Pope John Paul II who argued against it during a trip to the United States in the 1980s.

“America, defend life,” the pontiff said.

The victim’s grandson, his ire long-melted, fought for Cooper.

“I began asking my God why,” he says.  “I became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that my grandmother would have love and compassion for this girl on death row.”

Paula Cooper is scheduled to be released next month. She told CBS 2 she’s focused on her successful release but declined an interview.

Eddie Kemp now lives just down the street from the murder site, a pretty nook of Gary with nice, manicured lawns.  There’s a twist: Kemp’s wife will be one of Cooper’s social workers.

“She’ll make it,” he says.

Brad Edwards