A jury convicted a man Friday of killing his father, stepmother and two stepsisters 17 years ago inside their church parsonage home so he could attend some high school prom events.
The St. Joseph County jury found Jeffrey Pelley, now 34, guilty on four counts of murder after deliberating more than 25 hours since Wednesday. Pelley faces up to 260 years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 15.
Prosecutors accused Pelley, a high school senior at the time, of using a shotgun to kill his father, the Rev. Robert Pelley; stepmother, Dawn; and stepsisters, Janel, 8, and Jolene, 6, in April 1989 at their home next to the Olive Branch Church of the United Brethren in Lakeville, about 10 miles south of South Bend.
Investigators said Pelley was angry because his father had grounded him for stealing and would allow him to attend only the prom dance, causing him to miss a prom dinner, a bowling alley party and an outing the next day at an amusement park outside Chicago.
Pelley was not charged in the deaths until August 2002, when authorities reinterpreted evidence. Pelley was living in Dade City, Fla., when he was arrested.
Prosecutors alleged Pelley shot his family members on the evening of the prom, disposed of the shotgun and shells, took a shower, put his clothes in the washer and left for the prom.
Pelley's defense attorneys argued there wasn't enough time for him to have done all that and still make it to the LaVille High School prom. They also said no one could commit such a gruesome attack and still act "normal" during the prom events, as his friends testified during the trial.
The defense also questioned the decision by investigators not to look for fingerprints at the crime scene. Police officers testified during the trial that they didn't think they would find any usable prints and they thought it would be a waste of time because Pelley was their main suspect.
The shotgun used in the killings was never found.