Murder in the Family, All for the Prom

It was 1989, a festive spring weekend in rural Lakeville, Ind., for 17-year-old Jeff Pelley, a minister's son who was taking his first love, Darla Adams, to the prom. While the couple and their friends were hanging out, Jeff had a premonition.

"He told me he had a strange feeling something bad happened at home," Darla said.

'Something Sinister' in the Air

Pelley was right. Something sinister, something horrific was about to be discovered at his home.

The day after prom night, on Sunday morning, the Rev. Bob Pelley and his family did not show up for worship at the Olive Branch Church -- it was an anomaly for the pastor.

Will Tisdale, a church elder, walked to the pastor's home and tried to look in the windows, but the shades were uncharacteristically drawn, and the doors were locked.

Tisdale used a spare key to enter a side door. It was then that he discovered Bob Pelley, shot dead on the floor. "I went over to the phone. … I called 911."

While waiting for the police to arrive, Tisdale looked around for other family members.

"The kids was at the foot of the stairway just a little ways down the stairway … and I didn't go all the way down, I went about two or three steps. That was enough for me. … It was a bloody mess."

'A Bloody Mess' No Human Should See

Detectives said the preacher had been shot twice at close range with a shotgun. And downstairs in the basement, the pastor's wife, Dawn, her two daughters, 8-year-old Janel and 6-year-old Jolene, were also shot at close range.

Detectives Mark Senter and John Botich were among the first on the scene. Senter was horrified.

"No human being should've ever seen what we saw that morning," he said.

Police questioned family and friends but there were few leads to follow. No witnesses. The murder weapon was never found.

According to the police, there was no evidence of burglary or robbery, and the house was still locked up when they arrived.

Senter quickly determined that it "showed us that someone from the inside did this."

Investigators began to take a closer look at the Pelleys.

The Pelleys

The Pelleys were a blended family. Dawn Pelley had three girls, the two youngest who were murdered, and 9-year-old Jessie, who returned home from a sleepover at a friend's house.

Jessie remembered cops everywhere.

"At that age, the first thing I thought was my dog had died," she said. "You know, something happened to my dog. You don't think anything greater than that when you're that young."

Jessie soon learned the truth.

"They just said that they were gone," she said. "They didn't go into details. You know obviously my first reaction was to cry, and I cried for days."

Bob Pelley had two older children: Jeff, who went to the prom the night of the murders, and Jacque, 14, who was visiting a friend at a local college.

The Pelleys may have looked like the Brady Bunch, but the surviving children made it clear that was not the case.

"We didn't always get along with Dawn or see eye to eye with her," Jacque said. "We did not agree with the way Dawn was raising the girls, because it was different than the way we were raised."

There was tension in the house between the two families. Jacque and Jeff were allies in a divided home, and she had fond memories of growing up with her brother.

"He was always there to look out for you if you needed looking out for," she said, "and I felt like he was an all-around good guy."

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