Thursday, December 3, 2015

Paula Cooper, 15-Year-Old Murderess – Indiana, 1985

Wikipedia excerpt: Ruth Pelke was a 78-year-old American from Gary, Indiana, who was murdered by Paula Cooper (August 25, 1969 – May 26, 2015), aged 15, on May 14, 1985. Cooper stabbed Pelke 33 times with a butcher knife before stealing ten dollars and her car. A year later, Cooper was sentenced to death on July 11, 1986.

Cooper's age and sentence attracted an international uproar, especially in Europe, including a condemnation from Pope John Paul II. In 1989, her sentence was commuted to 60 years in prison. On June 17, 2013, Cooper was released from Rockville Correctional Facility. She died on May 26, 2015, following an apparent suicide.

According to police, Cooper skipped school with three friends (Denise Thomas, aged 14; Karen Corder, aged 16; and April Beverly, aged 15), drank alcohol, and smoked marijuana before visiting Pelke, a neighbor, ostensibly to ask about Bible lessons. One of the girls struck Pelke with a vase, and cut her arms and legs. Cooper stabbed Pelke 33 times in the chest and stomach with a foot-long (30 cm) butcher knife. Cooper and her friends then searched the house for jewelry, and stole ten dollars and the keys to Pelke's 1976 Plymouth.

Cooper's lawyers described her as a victim of sexual abuse who had attended ten different schools by the time of the murder. She had a prior record as a runaway and for burglary. However, there was little question of her guilt in the case. She was considered to be the ringleader of the group of girls, aged 14 to 16, who were all given sentences of 25 to 60 years for their roles in the crime. According to authorities, Cooper attacked guards in the juvenile center after her arrest and had to be moved to the County Jail. There, it was reported that she bragged about her crime and had said she would do it again.


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