DeKalb County

DeKalb woman serving life for stabbing wife to death now guilty in ex-girlfriend’s cold-case murder

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A Decatur woman accused of stabbing her wife to death has now also been convicted of abducting and murdering her former girlfriend more than a decade ago.

Joyce Marie Pelzer, 47, was found guilty on charges of malice murder and felony murder in the kidnapping and death of Shawndell McLeod, 35, in Sept. 2011. McLeod’s body has never been found.

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Investigators said that in 2011, McLeod’s mother called DeKalb County Police to report her daughter missing when she didn’t show up for work. Police learned that McLeod had ended an abusive relationship with Pelzer, who was wanted for threatening her with a knife.

Officers found McLeod’s car several days later in southwest Atlanta with a tarp and a spare tire in the back seat. There was damage to the car and mud on the tires. Investigators were not able to find McLeod’s body and the case went cold.


At the time, officers interviewed Pelzer, who said she’d been home with her then-girlfriend, Rosalyn Lewis, and had only left home the day McLeod vanished to walk her dogs.

Detectives got a call from Pelzer’s new girlfriend in August 2018, who said Pelzer admitted to killing McLeod. The new girlfriend, who wasn’t identified, said McLeod’s murder had been planned for months and that she and Lewis, who was at that point her wife, hired a hitman to kidnap McLeod when she got to work. McLeod was then held captive for several days while they dug a hole for her body.

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Later that year, in December, the girlfriend called again to warn them that Pelzer planned to murder her now-estranged wife, Lewis.

A few days later, police were called to a motel in Conyers where they found Lewis suffering from multiple stab wounds. She was taken to the hospital, where she died.

Pelzer led police on a high-speed chase down I-75 and was shot by officers. She survived her injuries. Pelzer admitted to police she helped kill McLeod, but blamed Lewis for orchestrating the murder. She told detectives that they buried McLeod on Arabia Mountain, but her body was never recovered.

Pelzer pled guilty to killing Lewis in 2021 and was already serving a life sentence. She will now serve life without the possibility of parole for McLeod’s death.