Minnie Peaples

Victim: Minnie Peaples, 84

Murderer: Bobby Griffin, 16

Crime location: Benton Harbor, Michigan

Crime date: October 19, 1967

Examples of Juvenile Murderers

On October 19, 1967, 16-year-old Bobby Gene Griffin and three others broke into the Benton Harbor, Michigan, home of 84-year-old Minnie Peaples with the intent to rob her. The plan, which Griffin came up with, was to gain entry to her home by faking distress. Griffin knocked on her door and told her that his brother had been beaten up and that he needed to call the police. Minnie refused to let him enter but offered to call the police for him. Griffin then struck her to the floor and forced his way inside. The three other attackers ran away and returned a short while later to find Griffin beating Minnie on the floor. While the other home invaders ransacked the home Griffin continued to beat the old woman, stripped her naked, and sexually assaulted her. The thugs fled, leaving Minnie alive but bleeding profusely. She later bled to death.
Griffin was sentenced to LWOP but was later re-sentenced to 40-60 years in prison. He was released in 2018. Peaples’s grandchildren expressed disappointment with the judge’s decision to release the rapist and murderer.

Michigan man resentenced in juvenile lifer case

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — A man in Michigan who was sentenced to life in prison without parole as a teenager nearly 50 years ago may soon be released.

At 17, Bobby Gene Griffin was handed Michigan’s then-automatic life without parole sentence for the 1967 murder of Minnie Peaples, 84, the Herald-Palladium (http://bit.ly/2t06YfY ) reported. The law has since changed to say juveniles convicted of murder can’t receive mandatory life sentences.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the change is retroactive — meaning that anyone already in prison who was a juvenile when committing the murder is entitled to a resentencing hearing.

Griffin and three other people broke into Peaples’ home in Benton Harbor when he was 16 years old. Court records say Griffin beat Peaples to death and sexually assaulted her while the others searched her home for valuables.

Griffin, now 67, expressed remorse in court Monday and acknowledged that he can’t reverse his actions.

“I was a teenager, but that’s no excuse,” he said. “It was sheer stupidity. I’ve grown up now. I used my time wisely. I would like to express my deep apology to Mrs. Peaples’ relatives.”

Judge Scott Schofield resentenced Griffin to 40 to 60 years behind bars with credit for nearly 50 years. He’s immediately eligible for parole and is expected to be released.

“Mr. Griffin has demonstrated that not only is he capable of change, but he has changed,” said Sofia Nelson, Griffin’s defense attorney.

Prosecutor Michael Sepic said Peaples’ grandchildren have expressed disappointment in the decision.

“This was an especially heinous murder,” Sepic said. “It’s my opinion Mr. Griffin should never get out. But the law gives other factors we have to consider, and that’s what we were faced with here.”

The status of Berrien’s juvie lifer cases

Hearings for people who were 17 or younger when they were sentenced to life in prison without parole are winding their way through courts across the country.

Here are the juvenile-lifer cases that have been heard in Berrien County since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that automatic life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional:

Bobby Griffin, 69, has been released from prison. He was 16 when on Oct. 19, 1967, he, along with three other people, broke into the Benton Harbor home of Minnie Peapples, 84, and killed her. He was re-sentenced on July 10, 2017, to 40-60 years and had served 49 years. He was discharged from the Michigan Department of Corrections June 6, 2018.

Bobby Gene Griffin

On October 19th, 1967 Bobby Gene Griffin, (dob 11/12/1950), at the age of 16, of Benton Harbor, broke into the home of Minnie Peaples with three others. Ms. Peaples was 84 years old and the widow of a former Benton Harbor police chief. Though the original intent was to rob, Griffin beat Ms. Peaples to death and sexually assaulted her while the others searched her home for valuables. Griffin and the three other individuals came up with the plan to commit a robbery while they were walking home from a pool hall. They chose Ms. Peaples, who lived alone, as their target.

Griffin came up with the plan to gain entry into the home by approaching the homeowner
and acting in distress. Griffin knocked on Ms. Peaples door and when she answered the door
told her his little brother had been beaten up and needed to call police. Ms. Peaples refused to let Griffin inside her home but offered to call police for him. When Ms. Peaples refused entry,
Griffin struck her to the floor and forced his way into her home. After Griffin entered the home
the other three young men he was with ran away. The three young men returned a short while
later and found Griffin beating Ms. Peaples on the floor. Griffin directed the other three to
search the home for valuables and continued to beat Ms. Peaples. Griffin sexually assaulted Ms. Peaples and stabbed her in the face while the others searched the home. When the other three returned from searching the basement, Ms. Peaples was suffering from a multitude of wounds, bleeding profusely, and completely nude with Griffin by her side. Griffin and the other three then left the home with Ms. Peaples’ money and jewelry. Ms. Peaples was still alive when they left her home but later bled to death.

Griffin was convicted of 1st degree premeditated murder and two counts of felony-murder for the burglary and robbery. He was sentenced to life without parole.

Minnie Peaples was an 84-years-old widow living alone at the time of her death in the
city of Benton Harbor. Her late husband Charles was chief of police in Benton Harbor, from
1930 to 1931 and undersheriff from 1942 to 1946. Ms. Peaples and her late husband were active members of the First Congressional Church and were well-known figures in the community. Ms. Peaples’ known survivors include her two sons, seven grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren.