It's one of the most notorious murder cases our area has ever seen. But now, convicted murderer Jeff Pelley has a chance at freedom. The Indiana Court of Appeals says the case should be dismissed because the defendant was not granted a speedy trial.
Back in 2006, Jeff Pelley was convicted for the 1989 murders of his reverend father, step-mother, and step-sisters. The crime happened at the family's rural Lakeville home.
Now that Pelley won the appeal, the case is in the hands of the Indiana Attorney General. A spokesperson in the Attorney General's office tells NewsCenter 16 they’ll transfer the case to the Supreme Court for review within 30 days. The office had no further comment on the case.
Meantime, Pelley’s defense attorneys say the prosecution took too long to bring their client to trial. The crimes happened in 1989, but Jeff Pelley wasn't charged until 2002, and it wasn't until 2006 that a jury convicted Pelley of murdering his reverend father, stepmother and stepsisters.
Now this week, the Indiana Court of Appeals has thrown out Pelley’s conviction, saying Pelley's motion to dismiss the case before it went to trial should have been granted. It's a decision that the court says wasn’t based on evidence, but rules of the law.
“Many issues were raised, issues of sufficiency of evidence, quality of evidence, and the issue of delay which ultimately resulted in reversal,” says Stacy Uliana, a defense attorney for Pelley, handling his appeal.
The controversy is centered around a subpoena issued in 2002. The state asked for records on the Pelley's family counseling at the Family and Children's Center. The FCC filed a motion against the subpoena, but that wasn't overturned until a couple years later-- which meant Pelley's “speedy trial” was already overdue. “It was that two year period that the court determined violated Jeff Pelley's rights. He was supposed to be tried within a year, but he wasn't tried within a year and the defense and defendant didn't in any way cause the delay,” says Andre Gammage, one of Pelley’s defense attorneys during his trial.
Meantime, the Pelley appeal has stirred up dozens of comments on WNDU’s website. Christine from South Bend says, “If you had talked with anyone who was on the jury, you would know that he was guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. These murders were purposeful and horrific. Please tell us that our judicial system will rectify this situation and with great speed!"
Joe from Goshen writes, “But everyone who is upset at Pelley is really displacing their anger. We should all be thankful that such rules exist. If they didn't anyone who gets on the wrong side of someone in authority could be charged in some cold case just so they could be made to rot in jail for years."
Gammage tells Newscenter 16 that the Pelley family is “excited” about this reversal and remains cautiously optimistic as the process moves forward.
If things go Pelley’s way, he could be out as early as this summer. The Indiana Supreme Court has the final say on this issue.