A northern Indiana teenager who was 12 years old when he helped kill his friend's stepfather has a chance at freedom.
Paul Henry Gingerich turned 18 in February, and under a state law that bears his name, a judge can now consider three alternative sentencing options, including Gingerich's release. The judge could also transfer him to adult prison to serve the remainder of his 25-year sentence or place him on probation, home detention or work release.
Gingerich was believed to be the youngest person in Indiana to be sentenced as an adult. His case sparked an outcry that led to legislation known as "Paul's Law," which allows alternative sentences for juveniles who commit serious crimes.
Gingerich appeared Friday in a Kosciusko County courtroom for a hearing on those options, the Indianapolis Star reported. Gingerich's attorney, Monica Foster, is asking for probation or home detention. A decision is likely by summer.
"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."
Gingerich and then-15-year-old Colt Lundy shot and killed Lundy's stepfather, Phillip Danner, in 2010 at his home near Lake Wawasee, about halfway between Fort Wayne and South Bend. Each boy fired two shots, hitting the 49-year-old man four times. The slaying was part of a plot by the boys and another friend to run away to California or Arizona.
The lead investigator on the case, John Tyler, ran through details of the crime at Friday's hearing.
Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility Superintendent Alison Yancey also testified, speaking about Gingerich's progress while in custody, including his becoming an honor student and his participation in community services.
The Indiana Department of Correction has determined that Gingerich has a low risk of re-offending.
Judge James Heuer called his progress "impressive" but also said he has to consider the victim's family, some of whom attended Friday's hearing.
Danner's family didn't make a statement in court and left immediately after the hearing.