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Bill authored a book entitled Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing, which details the May 14, 1985 murder of his grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Pelke, a Bible teacher, by four teenage girls. Paula Cooper who was deemed to be the ringleader was sentenced to die in the electric chair by the state of Indiana. She was fifteen-years-old at the time of the murder.
Pelke originally supported the sentence of death for Cooper, but went through a spiritual transformation in 1986 after praying for love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family. He became successfully involved in an international crusade on Paula's behalf and in 1989 her sentenced was commuted to sixty years in prison. Over 2 million people from Europe, mostly Italy, signed petitions that Paula be removed from death row. Pope John Paul II requested mercy from Indiana authorities for Paula. Paula was taken off of death row in 1989 and her sentence commuted to sixty years.
Bill, a retired steelworker, has dedicated his life to working for abolition of the death penalty. He shares his story of love and compassion and the healing power of forgiveness. Pelke has traveled to over forty states and fifteen countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story thousands of times.