You are here: on tour / Limited Journeys / 1998 Louisiana / 06-19 Baton Rouge
Thursday, May 28, 2020

06-19 Baton Rouge Advocate

Family members of 4 murder victims from across the country offered prayers of thanks Thursday for the stay that death row inmate Dobie Gillis Williams received.
More than 30 people attended a seminar advocating abolishment of the death penalty, called Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing.
"We are happy that there was a stay tonight," said Indiana resident Bill Pelke, one of the primary organizers of Journey of Hope, a national tour that is in Baton Rouge for 3 days. Pelke's 78-year-old grandmother was killed in 1985 by 4 9th-grade girls.
Those at the seminar offered prayers for Williams and his family and for the family of the woman he killed.
The state killing people doesn't halt violence, Pelke and the other family members said. It just makes it harder for family members of the murder victim to move on, they said.
Pelke said the ringleader of the girls who killed his grandmother was sentenced to die, and became the youngest female on death row in the U.S. He said he supported the death penalty, but didn't truly began to heal until he realized his grandmother was such a compassionate woman that she wouldn't want her killer executed.
"I was convinced my grandmother would be appalled that the state of Indiana was going to strap this girl into the electric chair," he said. "I learned the healing power of forgiveness."
The girl's death sentence was commuted to 60 years in prison, Pelke said.
California resident Carol Duncanson said she was glad that Michigan doesn't have the death penalty and couldn't kill the young man who raped, beat and strangled her 82-year-old mother in 1979. She said she has worked with others who saw the killer of their family member executed, and said it doesn't stop the pain.
"If you want somebody to die, your hatred is so strong you can't heal," Duncanson said. "It's like keeping the wound open and pouring vinegar into it every time there is a hearing. You can't heal when you focus on death."
Carol Byars, whose husband was shot and later died 20 years ago in the Houston area, said executions cost far more than sentencing people to prison sentences. She said the money spent on sending people to the
death chamber could be used to help victims family members heal and on crime prevention efforts.
She said the group believes it can overturn the death penalty. "We are saying the violence stops with us. We can make a difference 1 by 1. We won't shut up. We won't go away. We will change the system."
Tim Vining, president of Louisiana Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said the activities this week, which includes a rally at the Capitol at 11 a.m. Saturday, have been in the works for 6 months and coincidentally came when Louisiana was preparing to execute Williams.