Was Jeff Pelley Really Behind the 'Prom Night Murders'? Podcast Questions Son's Role in Family's 1989 Killing

Detectives believed that Jeff Pelley, then 17, had gone to prom directly after killing four members of his family.
Detectives believed that Jeff Pelley, then 17, had gone to prom directly after killing four members of his family.(Getty)

While Jeff Pelley was found guilty of killing four members of his family on his prom night, potential new information is pointing the finger at his dad Rev. Robert Pelley and his ties to a South Florida cartel at the time of his murder.

When the Pelley family was found massacred in their Indiana home 32 years ago in what was later dubbed “The Prom Night Murders,” many pointed their fingers at their teenage son, Jeff Pelley, who is currently serving a 160-year sentence in connection with his family’s murders.

But new information now suggests that his father, Rev. Robert “Bob” Pelley, and his possible ties to south Florida drug cartels, may have had more to do with the killings than once believed.

A new podcast, Counterclock, re-examined the April 29, 1989 murders that shook the small Lakeview community.

“There is a resolution in the criminal justice system and that is that Jeff Pelley is a four-time convicted murderer. I think the listener can come up with their own resolution that may be the same or different, based on all the facts in play,” investigative journalist Delia D’Ambra and the podcast’s host told the New York Daily News.  

Pelley was 17 years old when prosecutors say he orchestrated his family’s slaughter hours before his high school prom began in order to have the perfect night.

“I believe he killed his family and then was able to go to the prom,” Indiana State Police Detective Mark Senter told 48 Hours last year, explaining that Pelley had been previously grounded by his father. “He could not go to the prom without his dad taking him. He couldn't go to dinner before the prom. He couldn't go to the after prom.”

Pelley then drove away in his 1984 Ford Mustang, picked up his date and then went to the LaVille High School Prom.

The bodies of his father, his father’s wife Dawn, and Dawn’s 6-year-old daughter Jolene and 8-year-old daughter Janel were found shot at close range the following morning by parishioners of a nearby church, the New York Post reported.

Pelley’s stepsister Jessica had been away at a sleepover, and his biological sister Jacque was out of town that night. Both survived the massacre and are still living today.

The case went cold until 2002, when Pelley – who was a 34-year-old married father working for IBM at the time – was arrested for the crime and later convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to 160 years in prison.

But Counterclock is now taking a closer look at his father, Bob Pelley, and his potential role in the murders after D’Ambria spent a year diving into documents and re-interviewing those close to the case.

Bob Pelley had previously lived in Fort Myers, and oversaw a significant division of a bank that was later discovered to have ties to cocaine trafficking and money laundering with cartels in South America, the podcast reported.

“There are witnesses who have come forward to say that Bob Pelley left Florida because he was afraid of people there related to activities going on at the bank,” D’Ambra told the Post. “He moved from Florida to Indiana very abruptly in 1986. I think Pelley left to remove himself from the situation. I think he was fearful and knew something he shouldn’t have known.”

She adds that other credible witnesses have come forward, mentioning that Bob Pelley may have feared for his life and his family’s as a result of his Florida history.

While D’Ambra makes no conclusions as to whether Pelley was wrongfully convicted, she told the New York Daily News she hopes their investigation on Counterclock “lays out all of the acts and information that were not previously known."

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