Paula Cooper Released From Prison, Welcomed by Murder Victim's Grandson

Image: Paula Cooper Released From Prison, Welcomed by Murder Victim's Grandson May 29, 1985, photo by the Lake County, Ind., Police Department of Paula Cooper, sentenced to death when she was 15 after stabbing a 78-year-old Bible school teacher 33 times during a 1985 robbery in Gary, Ind.

Tuesday, 18 Jun 2013 08:22 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Imagine your grandmother was brutally killed by a home invader and then wanting to take the murderer out for a free lunch and new outfit upon their release from prison.

That's exactly what Bill Pelke, 43, said he planned to do during a recent interview with ABC News.

In 1986, Ruth Pelke, a 78-year-old Bible Studies teacher, was stabbed 33 times in her home by Paula Cooper, 43, during a robbery. At the time of the murder, Cooper, like Bill Pelke, was 15-years-old.

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After acknowledging that he has forgiven Cooper for murdering his grandmother, Pelke shared how he hopes to welcome the killer back into society.

"I’m hoping we’ll get together for a meal and do some shopping. I have a friend who wants to buy her a couple of outfits," Pelke told "It’s been a long journey, that’s for sure, but what I learned about love and compassion and forgiveness in 1986 has just kept me going."

Originally sentenced to death for the heinous act, which she confessed to, Cooper's sentence was commuted to 60 years after many, including Pope John Paul II and Bill Pelke, called for clemency considering her age and the fact that her three accomplices received much lighter prison sentences.

On Monday, Cooper was released early from an Indiana Corrections facility for good behavior, ABC News reported.

During her incarceration Cooper earned a bachelor's degree and worked primarily in the kitchen.

She also apologized for killing the 78-year-old Bible Studies teacher.

Cooper’s sister, Rhonda Labroi, claimed her murdering kin has worked hard to reform herself while in prison.

"Paula has worked hard to change her life in the decades since the crime," Labroi wrote in an email to "She entered prison as a very troubled teenager and is leaving a reformed woman."

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"We are proud of how much she’s grown and she has all of our support as she starts this second chance at life," Labroi added. "As always, our sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to the Pelke family."

Doug Garrison, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Corrections, would not say where Cooper would be living upon her release, telling ABC News: "The plan for her is to have her meet regularly with her parole officer to help her find a job and permanent housing."

Related stories:

Murderer Mistakenly Released in Chicago After Local Charges Dropped

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's Best Friend's Murder: Interest in Case Renewed

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