Paula Cooper, a mere 16 years old when she became the youngest person on death row in the United States. This occurred in 1986 when Cooper and her friends went to the home of 78-year-old Bible teacher Ruth Pelke, armed with a knife; they struck Pelke with a vase, cut her arms and legs, then stabbed her in the chest and stomach 33 times.
Cooper was tried for the murder of Pelke and an Indiana judge sentenced her to death on July 11, 1986, at the age of 16. After more than 2 million people signed a petition asking the Indiana Supreme Court to overturn Cooper’s death sentence, they reversed her conviction and gave her a 60 year sentence.
Pope John Paul II personally appealed to Indiana Gov. Robert Orr on Cooper’s behalf.
However, the most surprising advocate for Cooper’s life was the victim’s grandson who stated that he no longer wanted Paula to die and wanted to help her. The victims grandson stated, “I realized forgiveness had already taken place, and it brought a tremendous healing to me.”
The victims grandson and Cooper created an unpredicted friendship over the years. They sent messages to each other through the prison e-mail system every week. He says he is happy she is getting out tomorrow and wishes her the very best.