Indiana Death Row



DOB: 08-25-1969 DOC#: 864800 Black Female

Lake County Superior Court
Judge James Kimbrough

Prosecutor: James McNew

Defense: Kevin Relphorde

Date of Murder: May 14, 1985

Victim(s): Ruth Pelke B/F/78 (No relationship to Cooper)

Method of Murder: stabbing with knife 33 times

Summary: Cooper, age 15, devised a scheme with her friends to obtain money. They went to the home of a 78 year old Bible teacher and, armed with a knife, asked her to write down information about her Bible classes. Cooper then knocked her to the floor from behind, struck her with a vase, cut her arms and legs, then stabbed her in the chest and stomach 33 times. Cooper and the other girls searched the house for money. Cooper took $10 and Pelke's car.

Pled Guilty to Murder and Felony-Murder without Plea Agreement

Sentencing: July 11, 1986 (Death Sentence)

Aggravating Circumstances: b(1) Robbery

Mitigating Circumstances: 15 years old at time of murder, Youngest ever on Indiana Death Row

Direct Appeal:
Cooper v. State, 540 N.E.2d 1216 (Ind. July 13, 1989)
Conviction Affirmed 5-0; DP Vacated 5-0
Shepard Opinion; Debruler, Givan, Dickson, Pivarnik concur.
(Violates 8th Amendment and Indiana Constitution; murderers less than 16 years old at the time of the murder cannot receive the death sentence - Remanded to impose 60 year term of imprisonment)

On Remand:
Pursuant to Indiana Supreme Court Opinion, Cooper was resentenced to a 60 year term of imprisonment on 08-18-89 by Special Judge Richard J. Conroy.

As of July 1, 2006

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