By ANA PHELAN, age 10

Rockville Correctional Facility in Indiana where Paula Coopers served her 28-year sentence before being released on good behavior. PHOTO: Indiana Public Media
Rockville Correctional Facility in Indiana where Paula Coopers served her 28-year sentence before being released on good behavior. PHOTO: Indiana Public Media

Paula Cooper, a 43-year-old woman from Indiana, was released from prison on June 17, 2013, after 28 years of incarceration. She was only 16 years old in 1986 when she was sentenced to death for killing 78-year-old, Ruth Pelke, during a home robbery carried out with four other girls. At age 16, she became the youngest person on death row in the country.

Cooper was 15 years old at the time of the murder, but was not executed because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that she was too young to remain on death row. People from all over the world, including Pope John Paul II, pleaded for her to be spared from the death. Even Pelke’s grandson, Bill Pelke, forgave her because he thought his grandma would have done the same. Although her sentence was originally for 60 years, Cooper was released early because of her good behavior. She earned a college degree during her time in prison.