Teen Jeff Pelley murdered his family so he could attend his prom: Evil Lives Here investigates

Pelley family pic
Jeff Pelley (back middle) killed four members of his family with a shotgun. Pic credit: CBS This Morning/ YouTube

Evil Lives Here is traveling to Lakeland, Indiana, to investigate the case of Jeff Pelley who was convicted of murdering four members of his own family out of rage because his parents wouldn’t let him drive himself to the prom.

On Sunday, April 30, 1989, parishioners from the Olive Branch church in Lakeland grew concerned when Reverand Bob Pelley failed to show up for the morning service.

The Pelley family home was next door to the church, and suspicions were raised when they noticed all the doors were locked and the curtains were drawn; this was very unusual for a house with five children and lots of comings and goings.

When the police finally entered the property, they discovered the gruesome sight of four dead bodies. Reverend Bob Pelley, his wife Dawn, and Dawn’s daughters Janel and Jolene had all been shot at close range with a shotgun.

The scene didn’t look like a burglary or a home invasion; there was no sign of forced entry. There was a shotgun missing from the family gun rack. The detectives also determined from the position of Bob’s corpse that the killer had emerged from a bedroom not accessible from the outside.

Three other Pelley siblings were not at home the night of the murder. Jessica Pelley, 9, was at a sleepover, Jacque Pelley was out of town, and 17-year-old Jeff was at the prom.

Jeff Pelley was suspect number 1

The cops were instantly suspicious of Jeff. They knew that Jeff had recently been grounded by his father after being caught robbing another house in the neighborhood. Jeff’s punishment meant that Bob was to drive him to the prom, and he was also forbidden to attend the after-prom activities.

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The police believe that Jeff Pelley was enraged by his father curtailing his social activities and that the row ended in violence. Detectives concluded that Jeff shot Bob and then decided to murder all the witnesses in the house.

Unfortunately, for the cops, they had no murder weapon, no forensic evidence, and no eyewitnesses, which meant they were unable to proceed with a prosecution. Friends of Jeff also pointed out that he had appeared normal on the night of the prom and that there was no indication that he had just murdered four members of his family.

Jeff was allowed to get on with the rest of his life; he moved to Florida and started a family of his own. However, in 2002, a new prosecutor looked again at the evidence and decided there was enough to charge Pelley, which led to his arrest.

In 2006, a jury found Jeff Pelley guilty on four counts of murder, and he was sentenced to 160 years in prison. He still maintains his innocence, and the case is still not over as he’s appealed.

More from Evil Lives Here

Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on Evil Lives Here.

Paul Keller is believed to have started up to 107 fires in the Seattle area within a six month period. Tragically, one of those fires was started at a funeral home where three elderly residents were killed.

Shawn Grate targeted vulnerable women who had fallen through the cracks in society. He imprisoned, tortured, and strangled at least five women in rural Ohio before one of his victims managed to escape and raise the alarm.

Evil Lives Here airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

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3 years ago

These murders happened just south of where I live and wanted to let you know the town is Lakeville, not Lakeland. Good article!

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