Woman serving life sentence for killing wife convicted in 2nd murder

DeKalb DA says details of earlier killing of girlfriend were revealed in 2018 murder investigation
Joyce Pelzer, 47, was convicted of murder in DeKalb County for killing her girlfriend in 2011, according to the district attorney.

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

Joyce Pelzer, 47, was convicted of murder in DeKalb County for killing her girlfriend in 2011, according to the district attorney.

A woman already serving a life sentence for stabbing her wife to death in 2018 was convicted Friday in DeKalb County of murdering a former girlfriend years earlier, officials said.

Joyce Marie Pelzer, 47, was found guilty of malice murder and felony murder in the 2011 kidnapping and death of her girlfriend, DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston said in a statement.

The victim, 35-year-old Shawndell McLeod, was killed Sept. 25, 2011, and buried somewhere near Arabia Mountain, according to Boston. Years later, investigators conducted an extensive search of the area with cadaver dogs, but McLeod’s body was never recovered.

Boston said Pelzer and her wife, Rosalyn Lewis, planned McLeod’s murder for two or three months and hired a hitman to carry out the killing. The evidence that led to Pelzer’s conviction in McLeod’s murder only came to light seven years later, after Pelzer killed Lewis.

McLeod was reported missing when she did not show up for work one day in September 2011, Boston said. Investigators quickly learned she had been involved in an abusive relationship with Pelzer.

Pelzer had previously been accused of threatening McLeod with a knife, and McLeod had also called police to report that Pelzer had entered her home without permission and taken all of her furniture.

Several days after McLeod went missing, police interviewed Pelzer, who told them she and Lewis had been at home at the time of the killing. Later that day, after Pelzer’s interview, officers on patrol found McLeod’s car abandoned. The case went cold until 2018.

DeKalb investigators picked up the thread again when Pelzer’s new girlfriend contacted them in August 2018, Boston said. The woman told police Pelzer had admitted to murdering McLeod. Months later, she warned investigators that Pelzer planned to kill Lewis, who had recently filed for divorce.

A few months later, in December 2018, Conyers police were called to a motel, where they found Lewis suffering from more than 30 stab wounds, Boston said. Lewis was able to tell police that Pelzer stabbed her before she was taken to the hospital, but she later died from her wounds.

Police shared descriptions of Pelzer and her car with other law enforcement agencies and she was spotted by Georgia State Patrol troopers driving on I-75 South. Investigators believe she was attempting to drive to Florida, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.

Troopers stopped Pelzer with a PIT maneuver in Turner County, but when they approached her car, she raised a gun toward them, according to Boston. They fired at Pelzer and she was hit. She survived the shooting and later pleaded guilty to charges related to Lewis’ stabbing death.

On Friday, immediately after being found guilty of McLeod’s murder, a DeKalb judge sentenced Pelzer to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

She is housed in Pulaski State Prison in Hawkinsville, where she has been since December 2019.

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