Man convicted in 1989 Pelley murders seeks retrial

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 6:38 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - 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.

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