After reading news stories about violence, murder and war day in and day out, it is a relieving sight to see a story about forgiveness once in a while.
Such is the case with a news article released by CNN on June 17. It was reported that Paula Cooper, a woman arrested at the age of sixteen for murdering 78-year-old Bible instructor Ruth Pelke in 1986, was released from prison. For the murder, she was handed a death sentence, but in 1989, it was reduced to a 60-year sentence. However, with an unlikely advocate in the victim’s grandson and points for good behavior, she has been released 34 years early.
The grandson of the deceased, Bill Pelke, was Cooper’s greatest ally in her defense.
“I became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that my grandmother would have had love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family,” Pelke told CNN. “She would take it back in a heartbeat if she could, but she knows she has to live with it for the rest of her life.”
According to Pelke, Cooper claims she was naïve at her age and wants to steer other children away from the direction she ended up. This type of forgiveness is atypical in today’s society, and I found it refreshing to see a story like this.
When I read the headline, “Woman sentenced to death walks free, thanks in part to victim's grandson,” I thought this story would anger me due to the fact that the grandson helped a killer get out of jail. However, once I read into it, it sounded as though this woman truly learned her lesson and desired to help other at-risk youth to not end up like her.
Paula Cooper is one of the luckiest convicts to ever exist, and Bill Pelke is either the most forgiving man in the world or a complete lunatic. Frankly, I am still trying to distinguish it myself. But it is definitely no stretch to say that “taking the high road” still exists, even in our seemingly selfish generation. In my opinion, if Cooper can get through to one at-risk youth and convince them to change their ways, the release from prison will be all worth.
Despite taking one life, she now has the chance to save many. I am not saying that pardons what she did 27 years ago. However, it does show that she wants to make a difference in her own life and others. This story shows that what some people truly need is a second chance, one that Pelke was willing to give to a woman who had 27 years to dwell on the crime she committed when she was a dumb teenager.