In 1989 Jeff Pelley would be arrested for the murders of four members of his family when he was seventeen years old and allegedly killed his family the night of prom. According to court documents Jeff Pelley was upset with his family regarding prom and he decided the best way to fix that situation was through murder. Jeff Pelley would murder his father Reverend Robert Pelley, his mother Dawn Pelley, and two step sisters. Thankfully three members of the family were not home the night of the murders or the number could be even higher. After his family was massacred Jeff Pelley would go ahead and have a great night out with friends and classmates.
Jeff Pelley would not be charged in the murders until 2002 when a cold case squad linked him to the four murders. Ultimately this teen killer would be convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to 160 years in prison, forty years for each murder. Now Jeff Pelley has been insisting that he is innocent since he was arrested and continues to fight through the court system in hope of getting a new trial and release. I could not find him initially in the Indiana Department Of Corrections how ever that is because Jeff is actually his middle name and Robert his first.
Jeff Pelley 2023 Information
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Jeff Pelley Other News
On April 30, 1989, Pastor Robert Pelley didn’t show up for church at Olive Branch UB in Lakeville, Ind. (just south of South Bend). Eventually, two men went next door to the parsonage. They knocked several times, but got no response. The blinds were tightly drawn.
The found a spare key, entered the house…and discovered a grisly scene. Robert Pelley (38), lay dead in the upstairs hallway, killed with two deer slugs. In the basement were wife Dawn (32) and her two youngest daughters from a previous marriage, Janel (8) and Jolene (6). All had been shot in the head. Three children were not at home: Robert’s son Jeff and his sister Jacqueline, from a previous marriage, and Dawn’s daughter Jessica, 9. (Both Robert and Dawn were widows.)
Jeff Pelley, a 17-year-old high school senior, was always the leading suspect, but wasn’t arrested or charged. There just wasn’t sufficient evidence. He moved to Florida, developed a good career, married, had a child, and was teaching Sunday school.
Thirteen years passed. Then a Cold Case squad reopened the investigation. Jeff Pelley was arrested in August 2002 and charged with the four murders. In July 2006, he went on trial.
The evidence was very circumstantial. No murder weapon was ever found (Bob’s 20 gauge Mossberg was never located). No fingerprints linked Pelley to the crime itself. Rather, the prosecution relied on a carefully constructed timeline which put Jeff Pelley at the parsonage during a particular 20-minute period, during which he did a whole bunch of things (commit the murders, change clothes, load the washing machine, take a shower, locate and pick up the shell casings, draw the blinds, lock the doors, get rid of the gun and casings, and more).
Investigators said he was angry at his father for grounding him from attending pre- and post-prom activities, and from driving his car. After the killings, they said, he cleaned up, went to the prom with his girlfriend, stayed overnight with friends, and the next day went with friends to the Great America theme park in Chicago, where he was located on Sunday.
During the trial, Jeff Pelley’s attorneys insisted there wasn’t enough time for him to kill his family, do everything they claimed he did, and still make it to the prom, and that after committing an act like that, nobody would act normal, which is how friends testified that he acted during the prom events.
After a six-day trial which included nearly 40 witnesses, jurors deliberated for 34 hours and returned a guilty verdict. Jeff Pelley, now 34 years old, was sentenced to 160 years in prison (four consecutive 40-year sentences). A Court of Appeals reversed the conviction in 2008, but in 2009 the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the conviction. He is now incarcerated at the Wabash Correctional Facility near Terra Haute, Ind.
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Jeff Pelley Retrial
A 50-year-old man was back in court today to make a case for what he did and didn’t do on prom night 1989.
In 2006, a jury in St. Joseph County found that Jeff Pelley was guilty of the shotgun murders of his father, stepmother and two stepsisters under the age of 10.
The Olive Branch Church parsonage in Lakeville was the scene of the crimes.
Prosecutors argued that Rev. Robert Pelley was killed because he had grounded his 17-year-old son, preventing Jeff Pelley from attending prom related activities that he wanted to attend anyway.
Jeff Pelley was sentenced to 160-years in prison, with his earliest possible release date listed as 2082, unless he and his attorneys can convince a judge that he deserves a new trial or some other form of post-conviction relief at a three and a half day hearing that began today.
About a dozen years ago, the Wrongful Conviction Clinic at Indiana University took Pelley’s case. Attorney Fran Watson today criticized investigators for telling jurors that Pelley’s jeans, shirt and socks were found in the washing machine, having been washed.
Watson found absolutely no evidence to back that up—not in police reports or crime scene photos.
Watson suggested the investigation was plagued by political overtones and asked one officer if clothes in the washer was what he would have preferred to see.