Carmel author pens book about the murder of her cousin’s family 30 years ago

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CARMEL, Ind. — A Carmel author wrote one of the toughest stories to pen, the murder of her cousin’s family more than 30 years ago.

Their book is called "I am Jessica," and it details a gruesome shooting in Lakeville, Indiana. Back then, Jessi Toronjo was 9-year-old Jessica Pelley. She came home from a weekend sleep-away to discover her home had become a crime scene. Below she takes you back to that day.

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Her mother, stepfather, and two sisters were fatally shot point-blank with a shotgun. For 13 years the case went cold, then her stepbrother, Jeff Pelley was arrested, and later found guilty of the murders.

Carmel author Jamie Collins is her cousin, and the first person she's told the entire story to.

“I think she would have rather been with them," Collins said of her cousin's family's murder.

“It's almost surreal to me sometimes, like I know it happened, but just, you know, the reality of it is too harsh to actually think about,” said Jessi Toronjo.

Toronjo is now married with two kids. She sat them down and told them the story, but she says they have yet to understand what happened. Truthfully, Jessi may never fully understand it herself.

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