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Indiana Woman Sentenced To Die At 16 To Be Released

Paula Cooper, who was sentenced to death at the age of 16 for murder, is set to be released from prison.

Paula Cooper, who was sentenced to death at the age of 16 for murder, is set to be released from prison. (Clark County Circuit Court)

An Indiana woman put on death row at age 16 for killing an elderly Bible school teacher is being released.

Paula Cooper's death sentence at such a young age drew international protests and a plea for clemency from Pope John Paul II. Now at age 43, Cooper is set to be freed Monday.

She was 15 on May 14, 1985, when she and two other teenage girls entered 78-year-old Ruth Pelke's home in Gary by telling her they were interested in Bible lessons. Once inside, Cooper stabbed Pelke 33 times before the girls ransacked the house.

The Indiana Supreme Court set Cooper's death sentence aside in 1988 and ordered her to serve 60 years in prison after state legislators raised the minimum age limit for execution from 10 to 16.

The Indianapolis Star reported on Saturday Cooper, now 43, will walk out of the Rockville Correctional Facility a free woman Monday. The newspaper said Cooper declined a request for an interview and her plans for her future were unclear.

Cooper expressed remorse during a 2004 interview with the Star.

"Everybody has a responsibility to do right or wrong, and if you do wrong, you should be punished," she said. "Rehabilitation comes from you. If you're not ready to be rehabilitated, you won't be."

Indianapolis attorney Jack Crawford, who prosecuted Cooper, wishes her well.

"She has served her time, and perhaps she can make some contributions to society," he said. "I hope she continues to try to rehabilitate herself and make some amends for the crime she committed some 30 years ago."

Categories: Criminal Justice