June 8, 2007 — -- 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.
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."
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.