Victim in Pelo case challenges handling of her statement
Jeff Pelo, the former Bloomington police sergeant sentenced this week to 440 years in prison for a series of brutal rapes, headed to Stateville Correctional Center on Thursday to be processed by the Illinois Department of Corrections.
At the same time, the McLean County State’s Attorney’s Office released the videotape of Pelo’s initial interrogation, and one of his stalking victims questioned whether her statement to the court for the sentencing should have been kept intact.
Jonelle Penn Galuska, whose house Pelo was found outside late at night June 10, 2006, wrote in an e-mail to the Journal Star that she was perturbed by the manner in which Pelo’s attorney, Michael Rosenblat, challenged and had removed portions of impact statements from victims. She included the unabridged version of her statement that she originally submitted to the court.
“I am so outraged that Pelo and his lawyer decided to rob us of our opportunity to speak our minds,” she wrote in the e-mail. “I refuse to let him silence me.”
Galuska, who now lives in Germany, had her impact statement — with portions struck from the record at Rosenblat’s request — read in court during the sentencing hearing by a close friend, Nicki Mason.
A portion of her statement that was removed included a reference to her family’s previous devastation at the hands of another rapist, who attacked Galuska’s sister.
“My sister, Marybeth, committed suicide less than a year after her rapist was released from prison,” she wrote in the statement. “I believe my sister would be alive if she had more time to heal, but unfortunately we will never know.”
Pelo was arrested hours after being found outside Galuska’s home on the east side of Bloomington in June 2006 for attempted burglary and stalking. About a month later, he was charged with four brutal rapes from December 2002 through January 2005.
Fellow Bloomington Officer David Ziemer confronted Pelo outside Galuska’s home, but let Pelo — Ziemer’s superior — go home. The next morning, Pelo was hauled into the Bloomington Police Department for questioning while more than a dozen detectives searched his home.
During Pelo’s initial interrogation that morning by Bloomington Detective Sgt. Larry Shepherd, the 17-year veteran of the force defended himself by repeatedly asserting that he couldn’t sleep and was in Galuska’s neighborhood house-hunting in the middle of the night for his mother-in-law.
Shepherd expressed his disbelief and urged Pelo to reconsider his story. Pelo only grew more agitated, gesticulating wildly and stomping his feet as he denied any wrongdoing.
“I am thinking about what I’m telling you — the truth,” Pelo said. “I don’t lead a sinister life of some kind.”
He also repeated, “It wasn’t me.”
The jury, however, found Pelo guilty in June of all 35 felonies leveled against him.
Matt Buedel can be reached at (309) 686-3154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.