Ind. woman sentenced to die at 16 freed Monday

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An Indiana woman who was once the youngest person on death row in the United States was released from prison Monday.

Paula Cooper, who was sentenced to death in 1986 at age 16, was freed at 10 a.m. from the Rockville Correctional Facility.

Cooper was convicted in the fatal stabbing of an elderly bible teacher, 78-year-old Ruth Pelke, during a robbery. Authorities said Cooper, who was 15 years old at the time, and three friends committed the murder.

Following Cooper’s death sentence, an international campaign launched to overturn the sentence. The campaign received support from Pope John Paul II and the victim’s grandson, Bill Pelke, who stated he forgave Cooper three months after she was sentenced to die.

The Indiana Supreme Court reversed Cooper’s death sentence in 1989 and she was sentenced to serve 60 years in prison.

Pelke said he plans to treat Cooper to a shopping trip once she is free, reported CNN.

A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Corrections told Fox59 Monday Cooper is free to travel or live anywhere in Indiana and will not be monitored electronically. However, she was ordered to remain living in the state and will need to obtain permission in order to travel outside its borders.

Officials said Cooper will be assigned a parole officer, and because the case is considered high-profile, Cooper will be in frequent contact with an officer.

While in prison, Cooper earned a bachelor’s degree, trained dogs for the disabled and has become a tutor.