23
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a shot

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Paul Henry Gingerich: A shot at freedom for former 12-year-old killer

by Kristine Guerra, Indianapolis Star

April 22, 2016

Paul Henry Gingerich was 12 when he killed a man.

On Friday—just past six years later—Gingerich was back in court in Kosciusko County, where he had been convicted and sentenced for the slaying of a friend’s stepfather. Gingerich has been at Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison for juveniles, since he was sentenced in January 2011.

But now that Gingerich has turned 18, he has a shot at early freedom.

Gingerich was one of the youngest people, if not the youngest, in Indiana to be sentenced to prison in an adult court. His sentence sparked an outcry among child advocates and juvenile justice groups. It also spurred legislation in 2013 that significantly changed Indiana’s juvenile system.

Under “Paul’s Law,” juveniles who commit serious crimes are placed in the juvenile system until they turn 18, at which time a judge determines whether to send them to an adult prison for the remainder of their sentence; place them under alternative programs such as probation, home detention or work release; or release them completely.

That hinges largely on their progress under the juvenile system’s rehabilitative and educational programs, and on their likelihood of committing another violent crime.

Gingerich, who turned 18 in February, appeared at his Friday court hearing in a dark green polo, khaki pants and white sneakers. He is no longer the short, small-framed boy with a Justin Bieber-like haircut. At 5 feet 10 inches, Gingerich towers above his attorney, Monica Foster.

Foster is asking the judge to either release the teenager to probation for what is left of his sentence, or place him under home detention to more gradually allow him to re-enter society.

“There is simply no legitimate penological purpose to be served by committing Paul Gingerich to further incarceration,” Foster wrote in court records. “Indeed, to commit Paul Gingerich to an adult prison would run a very real risk of destroying the progress that has undeniably been made by this young man.”

A memorandum that Foster filed in court, as well as testimony from Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility Superintendent Alison Yancey, outlined such progress.

Gingerich began as a sixth-grader with inconsistent grades and several disciplinary write-ups, but he became an honors student who graduated from high school with a 3.8 GPA.

He participated in group assignments, community and religious services, and several programs at Pendleton. He went through individual and group therapy, family counseling, mental-health programming and substance-abuse treatment. He mentored others and worked in Pendleton’s dining room.

He has received six write-ups for violating Pendleton rules, but most of them involved giving pastries to other kids. None involved violence, said Yancey, who described the teen’s behavior as “near perfect.”

“He hasn’t really been a problem child at all,” Yancey said. “He came in well behaved, and he’s still well behaved.”

He would benefit from going to a college campus, Yancey said.

The Indiana Department of Correction also determined that Gingerich has a low risk of re-offending. Court records further say that Gingerich has shown remorse and admitted having “thoughts, flashbacks and nightmares” about his crime.

On April 20, 2010, Gingerich and then-15-year-old Colt Lundy shot and killed Phil Danner, Lundy’s stepfather. Each fired twice, hitting the 49-year-old Cromwell man four times. The two, along with another 12-year-old, had planned to run away to California or Arizona.

Gingerich and Lundy were charged with murder as adults. Both pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Both were sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Gingerich’s conviction, saying the Kosciusko County court should have given Gingerich’s defense attorney enough time to make the case that Gingerich should have been charged as a juvenile.

Gingerich pleaded guilty again after the case was returned to the trial court. By that time, “Paul’s Law” had taken effect, and the plea agreement called for a review hearing on the case once Gingerich turned 18.

During the hourlong hearing Friday, Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton called the lead investigator on the case, John Tyler of the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, to the stand. Tyler recalled details of the crime, as well as what happened before and after Danner was killed.

Foster objected to Tyler testifying, saying the hearing was not about the crime but about Gingerich’s progress in the juvenile system. Hampton argued that the court must know the “type of behavior that the juvenile facility has to address.” The judge, James Heuer from neighboring Whitley County, allowed Tyler to testify.

After hearing testimony, Heuer must now decide where Gingerich will spend the next several years of his life. Gingerich could walk out a free man, but he also could be sent to adult prison for the remainder of his 25-year sentence, cut in half by credit for good behavior.

Because Gingerich wants to live with his mother in Fort Wayne if he is released, Heuer asked the defense attorney for information about programs in Allen County that Gingerich would be eligible for. He also asked the prosecution to determine Gingerich’s eligibility for correction department programs.

Heuer said Gingerich’s progress was “impressive.” But he also said he cannot turn his back on the victim’s family, some of whom attended the hearing.

“I do want to know what’s out there in terms of alternatives,” Heuer said.

Heuer’s decision likely will come this summer.

Danner’s family didn’t make a statement in court and left immediately after the hearing. Hampton didn’t return a call from IndyStar. Gingerich’s parents also declined to comment.

“I’ve always been optimistic about this case because I trust this kid,” Foster said after the hearing.

Before Heuer makes his decision, Gingerich must undergo major surgeries. He has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an incurable illness that causes inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract. A large part of his colon has been removed, and he now wears a colostomy bag.

He intended to begin online college courses in January, but those were postponed because of his illness.

Lundy is at the Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton, records show. He is scheduled to be released in 2022.

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Kristine Guerra is the primary courts reporter for the Indianapolis Star. She covers major criminal and civil cases in lower trial courts, the Court of Appeals of Indiana, the Indiana Supreme Court and federal district court. She started as an intern at major daily newspapers in Orange County CA, Portland OR, and Indianapolis. The Star later hired her as a breaking news reporter, a position she held for about 2½ years.

Indianapolis Star reporter Robert King contributed to this story.

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1 Response to “a shot”


  1. 1 BobH
    April 24, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Let’s hope that he gets the best result.


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