Advocates say justice was delayed, but deal positive for Gingerich

Dave Stafford
December 18, 2013
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More than three years after 12-year-old Paul Gingerich was improperly sentenced as an adult to 30 years in prison for his role in a killing, he now has a chance to be free at 18 – an imperfect result, advocates say, that nonetheless might be the best possible under the circumstances.

paul gingerich Gingerich

Gingerich’s future is up to him, defense attorney Monica Foster said. If Gingerich, now 15, stays on track for an accelerated diploma with honors, he may be transitioned from Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility to a supervised residential setting next year, and his release could come as soon as February 2016.

“We have progressed a long way from where we started and think this was a just result,” Foster said. “It was a tragic, terrible crime that occurred, but the prosecutor’s office, to their credit, was willing to look at all the facts.”

Foster and Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton signed a deal subject to a judge’s final approval in January. Gingerich will plead guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit murder as a Class A felony in exchange for the state dropping charges of murder and aiding, inducing and causing murder.

foster Foster

Gingerich was convicted along with then-15-year-old Colt Lundy for his role in the shooting death of Lundy’s stepfather, Phillip Danner, in his home in Cromwell. Lundy had orchestrated a plan in which he, Gingerich and another 12-year-old boy would take Danner’s car and go to Arizona, where Lundy’s biological father lived.

Lundy signaled Gingerich to come inside the home, then supplied him with a handgun. Gingerich said later that he entered the house with the intention of talking the older boy out of going through with his plan to kill his stepfather, but both boys fired at Danner.

Gingerich’s case made international headlines and caught the attention of Dan Dailey, executive director of the nonprofit Redemption Project for Kids, which assists children who commit parricide. He blogged about the case and established a trust for Gingerich to which donors have contributed about $8,000, he said.

“We don’t know what happens now,” Dailey said, noting young offenders like Gingerich will face lifelong obstacles. “The fact is, we live in an unforgiving society where no matter what happens in court, something is going to follow these kids. … They’re always going to have something against them in the way of getting a good job, getting a good place to live, or whatever opportunity they want to pursue.”

The Gingerich case moved Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, to push legislation giving judges the discretion to impose blended juvenile-adult sentences – leeway that Indiana and only three other states lacked at the time Gingerich was sentenced as an adult. But even with the Gingerich case pointing to such a need, it took two sessions before a compromise bill, House Enrolled Act 1108, was signed into law this year.

McNamara said representatives of the Indiana Department of Correction asked her to carry the bill in part because of the position the department was in when Gingerich was sentenced to an adult prison. “They said he was the size of like an 8-year-old when he was committed,” she said. “The DOC virtually had to violate the law to place him in a facility where he could get (juvenile and educational) services.”

Lawmakers also ultimately realized that juvenile offenders someday would return to society, and so their treatment should emphasize and reward rehabilitation, McNamara said.

“If we don’t provide them the same services other juveniles are getting, we are creating an egregious act,” she said.

Dailey, a native Hoosier who now lives on an 80-acre spread near Big Bend National Park in Texas, said Gingerich also will be an heir to the land he’s leaving in the names of the children he’s assisted through the Redemption Project. It’s off the grid, but it’s a connection to something, Dailey said.

“No matter how old they get, they’ll have a permanent place to call home,” he said. “Sometimes all we have to offer these guys in the way of hope is that they will have something.”

But Gingerich isn’t typical of the kids he assists through the Redemption Project, Dailey explained. He has a strong parental support system, for instance. “I’m very much impressed with his family’s attitude toward what happened,” he said. “It was a terrible tragedy and they don’t seek to minimize it. They seek to accept responsibility.”

Foster said Gingerich has made the best of his time.

“He’s really been an extraordinary student at the Pendleton Juvenile Facility,” Foster said. “He’s been sort of a leader with the other students in helping them to do the right thing.”

His plea deal includes the same conviction and sentence imposed in adult court – 30 years with five suspended, plus credit for time served – but it sets a review hearing after Gingerich’s 18th birthday at which time the sentence may be suspended and a judge may order his release.

“The level necessary to restrict defendant’s freedom will be directly correlated to his successfulness in completing assigned rehabilitative programs and adherence to the rules and regulations of the program, the facility, and of society,” the agreement says.

Gingerich is believed to be the youngest offender ever sentenced as an adult in Indiana, and his case rallied opponents of tough sentencing for juveniles. Indiana Code 31-30-3-4, passed in 1997, allows children as young as 10 to be waived to adult court.

Karen Grau, president and executive producer of Indianapolis-based filmmakers Calamari Productions, said a new documentary on the Gingerich case is scheduled to air on the Lifetime Network soon, now that the case has been tentatively resolved.

Grau also was involved in an earlier documentary focused on Gingerich and Lundy called “Young Kids, Hard Time” that aired on MSNBC.

Like Gingerich, Lundy also was sentenced to 30 years with five suspended for his conviction of conspiracy to commit murder. Lundy is held at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. His projected release date is in 2022, according to the Department of Correction.

Dailey said the system ultimately worked in Gingerich’s case.

“What we’ve done for this kid, we haven’t defined his future and we’re not going to let this terrible crime define it,” Dailey said. “He was only 12.

“His future is now in his hands again, and that’s a great gift when you think about it.”•


  • UK-London
    I watched a documentary last night called the 12 year lifer, channel 4 UK. The documentary didn't include the recent judgment about Paul not having to go to adult jail, which i am very glad to hear. Firstly i thought it was illegal to try a 12 year as an adult, Ronald L Sampford is another sad case. However in a way his treatment has certianly taught Paul a hard lesson, which from the looks of it will stay with him forever. Here in the UK we had a case of 2 young boys who killed a 3 year old that they had lured from a shopping centre, Jamie Bulger. Now these 2 devils were put in juvi and treated with cotton wool gloves. They were allowed out at night to go shopping, their rooms were like their own bedrooms as home but even better and were eventually let out at the age of 18. Since then one of them is back in jail for possessing child porn. The UK jail service is a joke, my wife has to deal with these kids/teens and some of them prefer being in jail, free internet, gym, studying, great food, they describe it as a holiday camp. So i can honestly say the UK jail system does not work very well. It does seem the US system is very harsh but if Paul had known he may get out by 18/19, would he be trying so hard to change himself? I hope for his sake he keeps up the hard work and gets release by 20! 12 years old is very young and one can be very easily influence by an older kid, in this case the son was 15, i am still shocked he was tried as an adult!!!
  • Deeper
    Well, we could always revert to Sparta, put our kids through hell, not caring for one single moment, and just see which ones survive. If you go down that path, perhaps there should simply be one single punishment for any crime - death? It would most certainly be cheaper. There will always be Pauls and Colts and there will always be crime. You can not have a perfect world, just as WE are not perfect. Also, you can never have enough police officers to stop every crime. Everything relies on our own self control which comes from several levels of deterrents. The first is how we were brought up. Then the environment and the people and our experiences. Then the laws and norms and, finally, punishment. No single level is enough. So, with each level you remove from someone's life, you increase the possibility of that person doing the wrong things. Even when he knows they're wrong. Even a death sentence by itself is not enough and you can see this in America. Of course, people are not the same and not everyone will collapse on each level (or any). There are so many things that determine our character and it's impossible to even know them, let alone analyze and have a tailored made solution for everyone. But that is why we add new layers as with each one you deter more and more people. I do not kill because I strongly believe it to be wrong, not because I would end up in jail, but others may calculate if a kill is worth life in jail. Also, you may find yourself in a very bad moment and if you find a loaded gun at that moment, jail is the last thing that comes to mind. I can say I've had a very good and happy childhood, but I would still get into very bad fights with my parents in teenage years, as everyone else. Had I had a gun at that point or new there was one in the house, I can honestly say there would've been 80%+ chance for me taking it and using it. And as no one is perfect, we don't have a single law and one single punishment saying "if you do anything wrong, the punishment is death". No, we have different laws and different punishments. Of course, as we learn more from experiences and as we evolve as a species, we need to realize what is wrong and continually do our best to make it better. If we know that most poeple (and kids) who go to correctional institutions and prisons come out worse than they were and do more crimes, then we must admit something is terribly wrong. In the documentary "12 year old lifer", you can hear Colt talking (proudly) about how big and strong he has become. And you know he's not talking about attracting girls, he's talking about being able to fight in prison. How screwed up is the system that makes a 15yo decide (in just 3 years) to work out so that he could fight? Unless he's a professional athlete? Could that decision have been started even long before that, when he was just 9 or 10, wishing he was able to protect himself or his mother? You can also learn a lot from the BBC's Kids Behind Bars and many other documentaries. Whats more, the issues that lead to such things do not come out of nowhere, even when it seems that way. They develop over a period of time. All kids have a certain link with their parents/guardians and look up to them for everything. From food and clothes, to help and guidance and yes - to punishment. But when that link is broken, due to negligence or abuse (or anything), the child will look for someone else to fill the void. The new guide may be a very good man like in a Disney movie, but it may not be. And a broken link can turn into a simple disconnection from the family but it can also turn into anger and hate. And once a thought of harming someone gets into such mind, it will never leave and will be constantly poking the already troubled head. And again, a 12yo simply does not have the mental capacity to think like what you say. He can hope it wouldn't be too bad, he can hope not to get caught, but he can not actually plan a murder by thinking everyone will fall for his cute face. Also, young boys, much more than girls, want the attention and friendship of older boys, even adult men. So much so that sometimes it's impossible to say (perhaps, even for themselves) if they're following you into something out of their own free will and shared interest or just because they feel you'd otherwise throw them out of your world. That, with the raging hormons and the fact that they don't really have the mental capacity to grasp the seriousness of some actions (and consequences) and their inability to think in long terms, makes them such easy targets. That's also why you don't let them drive, vote and yes - have guns. Personally, I don't even think we're really adult before the age of 30 or something. So, putting a 17-18yo with 30s-70s multiple- and long-time offenders is really a death sentence. Do you know Paul was actually supposed to go into an adult prison, at just 12(!) untill someone with a shred of sanity pretty much broke the law and said "we won't do this, he will never survive his first night"? If THEY knew, then everyone knew, but they still tried both Paul and Colt as adults. Well, why don't they legalise sex with persons of any age as well? You don't even have access to adult movies when you're 12 or 15, but you are tried and sentenced like an adult? Just how screwed is that? Right now, we (or at least America) seem to be doing the easiest thing - set a ridiculously hard punishment for everything. Like kids in Ukraine being sentenced for years for stealing a $60 worth mobile phone (YouTube, "Children Behind Bars 2013 HD"). It's like winning a race by always trying to drive at the highest speed possible, completely oblivious to everything else. But that's how Ayrton Senna killed himself. It's about time we start doing things as Alain Prost - driving at the lowest speed that will take us across the finish line. And to realise it's not just the speed. It's also the mechanics, the construction, the rules, the staff, the tactics. And above all - if you don't come in first, it's better to be last, than dead. So, I think that not completely destroying a 12yo boy's life and all the hope for him, his friends and family, will create a lot less Pauls and Colts then turning our heads away from childrens' problems and letting them deal with reality on their own. We need less speed and much more thinking and tactics. As for Danner's family, of course they are devastated by the event. Apart from not having that definitive answer to the simple question "why", people usually say the worst thing about losing someone is not even being able to say goodbye. But what they want is Phillip back and no punishment will ever do that, so no punishment will bring them peace and satisfaction. That is why I really believe the only thing that WILL bring them peace is to find the strength to honestly forgive the boys and make sure the punishment is targeted towards making them better, not worse. P.S. English is not my native language so I might be using too many words and not expressing myself well enough. Sorry for that.
  • Deterent effect?
    On the other hand, what if Colt and Paul knew that none would mollycoddle them, but that they would rather be quickly executed for such a cold blooded murder? Would the knowledge of sure and certain judgment ... death ... have deterred them to a more peaceful solution? What of the next Paul or Colt? Will they be more or less deterred by the outcome urged in the previous comment? The all-knowing elists have sold us on the concept that punishments do not deter, that two parent families do not matter, that media violence has no affects, that modernity is the best possible world ... even with so many Pauls and Colts being produced in it. Time to rethink much of what is building our brave new world? Or is it damn the torpedoes toward even more youth gone wild?
    • Too many tragedies
      So many wrong things in this case. From broken families, weapons accessibility and splattered brains in PG13 movies to a murder and the sentence. A 12yo boy has lost the best, most memorable and most defining years of his life. His parents have lost the most bonding and building years with their son. He did a terrible thing but he seems to be fully aware of that and he's not some criminal mastermind. And at 12, a boy's mental capacity is just as far away from an adult as can be. Punishment must exist, but we should also think about keeping kids on the right track or getting them back onto it. Isolation and restriction of a prison are good only at creating mindless robots, not productive members of society. Instead of removing all emotion and all life from their surroundings, kids should be in an environment where they will share their time with friends and the people who love them. Learning the real values and being inspired to do good. Falling in love, instead of falling asleep in a cold, empty cell. We all change as we grow up and Paul will, too. He's surely already a completely different person from when he was 12. To him, it must feel almost like he's paying for someone else's crime. We must ask ourselves what is our goal here? A punishment is only effective until the moment the punished one understands what he's done, how it has affected others, why it was wrong and why it must not be done. After that, it becomes pointless and counterproducitve, creating nothing but hatred towards the system which has done this. Imagine grounding your 12yo boy for a year for coming home too late? I do believe Paul understands what he's done all too well. I also believe he wishes he had done something to prevent the event and I believe he honestly regrets all the pain he's caused. Both to himself and others. And he accepts his mistake. Will we, as society, accept ours? Before it's too late? Will we start taking better care of children? Will we take more interest into the lives of kids in broken families, kids being abused, sold, made to work...? The system is wrong in its essence. We don't care about the causes, we're unwilling to really deal with the effects and America has even created a system in which it's profitable for someone to have more people (and kids) in jails. I really wish Colt had a chance to grow up in a loving family with both his real parents. I wish there were no guns in the house. I wish Paul managed to convince Colt to change his mind. I wish they didn't kill a man. NONE of these things can be changed now. But there is one thing that can still BE changed. Change the system. Change the way we treat our kids. Show them a better world, a better alternative. Show them they're not on their own. Show them we care. Let's start with Paul. Release him into some kind of a home-custody, now. Let him be in a natural and normal environment. Set limitations and requirements, but those that will inspire him. Make him be good at school. Make him do sports. Make him help the community and other kids. Make him stay away from drugs and alcohol. Turn this into a wake-up call for everyone. Yes, even for Colt.
      • hmm
        Whipples used an axe. We need axe control laws too. knee jerk charging of kids as adults does not serve justice
      • blame the impliment
        Our grandparents carried guns to school david. Guns, knives, bats, hammers, cars not the problem.
      • Handguns and Kids
        The case of these boys is shocking and I for one don't think they should have been tried as adults. The real issue here is that children all over the states have such easy access to firearms. How many people have to die to prove that gun laws need to be tightened in the states

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