A Family Divided -- Part 2

By: Sarah Platt Email
By: Sarah Platt Email

In most murder cases, the victims are not just the ones whose lives are taken; the crime also affects those left behind, forced to deal with a lifetime of pain.

Although both Pelley sisters have different views on what happened, both say they have learned to live with losing the ones closest to them.

At the age of 28, Jessi Pelley, whose married name we were asked not to use, has lived through more tragedy than most of us will face in a lifetime.

She lost her stepfather, mother and two young sisters, who were all shot to death inside the family’s Lakeville home.

No surprise then that she looks at life a little differently than most, pink hair and all.

“I look at life as you need to live it, every day, to the fullest because it could be your last one,” Jessi explained. “I’m very honest, I don't lie to people and some people don't like that about me because I am very forward.”

The latest twist in the Jeff Pelley case, is that the convicted murderer could go free.

If the Indiana Supreme Court upholds the Appeals Court ruling, Pelley could be out of prison as early as this summer.

That is news that Jessi hoped she would never hear.

“I don't think that's right. I mean, the justice system, if that goes through, I can't look at it the same way,” said Jessi.

But for Pelley's sister Jacque, the news brings her relief. She did not want to go on camera, but e-mailed us her thoughts.

“I believe that if the Supreme Court hears the case that they will rule in our favor... I really am looking forward to being able to put all of this behind us and being able to enjoy the future with our families," Jacque said in her e-mail.

She believes police did a shoddy investigation. She expressed anger over fingerprints never being pulled from the crime scene.

“Seriously, who doesn't fingerprint a crime scene? Did they skip that day of class? To hear people talk about Jeff is appalling to me,” said Jacque.

Jeff Pelley's defense attorney maintains that his client was wrongly convicted.

“Innocent people convicted and given 160 years is obviously a tragic result that a defense lawyer can experience,” said attorney Alan Baum.

Meantime, Jessi says for years she lived with guilt over the murders, especially losing Janel, who was supposed to join her on a sleepover the night of the murders.

Their mom decided at the last minute that Janel would stay home.

“For me, it took me years to get over that, so it's just like she was supposed to stay with me and I would have her at least,” said Jessi. “I've thought about this a lot, why was I away?”

Jessi now has a husband and two children of her own. She says she often sees her sisters in her daughter.

“There are so many things that remind me of my sisters, my mom. It does tear at my heart,” she said.

Jessi says her tragic past has steered her towards a career in helping kids. She is a pre-school teacher, a job which she says has brought her a lot of joy.

And regardless of the opinions on who committed the crime, both sisters say it is a nightmare they wish never happened but something they have learned to live with.

Jacque wrote, “It was devastating to lose my family. I don't think that there are words to describe how I felt all of these years."

“I would tell them that I miss them, I wish they could have been here. My wedding, my kids, just life,” said Jessi. “A lot of people say closure... I will never really have closure, because it's such an awful traumatic event.

For now, Jeff Pelley and his wife Kim have turned down our request for an interview.

In a family statement, they say they are happy to have won the appeal and remain optimistic as the appeal process progresses.

Meantime, Jessi tells us she will continue to follow the case, with the hopes that her step-brother will remain behind bars.

But the question remains, if Jeff Pelley did not commit the murders, who did?

The defense team believes Reverend Pelley became a murder target while working for a bank in Florida, before moving to Lakeville.

The judge did not allow that theory as evidence at the trial.

Defense attorney Alan Baum says that bank was under investigation for laundering of drug money.

Stay tuned to NewsCenter 16 as we follow Jeff Pelley’s appeal through the judicial system.

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