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Indiana Woman on Death Row Since She Was 16-Years-Old Scheduled for Release

Paula Cooper
Lake County Sheriff’s Dept

An Indiana woman that has been serving time on death row since she was 16-years-old for the murder an elderly Bible school teacher is set to be released from incarceration on Monday due to a Supreme Court intervention.

Paula Copper, who is now 43-years-old, sparked international controversy in 1985, when she became the youngest person in the nation to ever be sentenced to death. After the sentence was handed down, there were a number of protests surrounding the decision, including a clemency plea from Pope John Paul II.

In May of 1985, Cooper and three other teens told Ruth Pelke that they were interested in piano lessons. However, after Pelke let them in her house, they proceeded to rob the 78-year-old Bible school teacher and left her for dead.

According to reports, while the others waited outside, Cooper stabbed Pelke 33 times with a butch knife before the four girls made their getaway with Pelke’s car and about $10.

For these crimes, three of the teens were sentenced to between 25-60 years in prison, but Cooper, who admitted to killing Pelke, was sentenced to die in the electric chair.

In 1988, the Indiana Supreme Court overturned Copper’s death sentence and instead, ordered her to spend 60 years in prison. It has since been found by the U.S. Supreme Court that it is unconstitutional to execute anyone under the age of 18 years of age.

Cooper has spent nearly 30 years behind bars for her crimes and is scheduled to be released sometime today.

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