Goshen News, Goshen, IN

April 3, 2013

New judge set to hear Gingerich appeal

STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

— INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana judge who sent a then-12-year-old boy to adult court where he received a 25-year sentence for helping a friend kill his stepfather won’t preside over a second hearing to determine if he should be tried as a juvenile.

Attorney Monica Foster, who handled Paul Henry Gingerich’s successful appeal, requested and received a new judge, The Indianapolis Star reports.

Whitley County Judge James Heuer has been appointed to handle the case.

Gingerich is now 15 and at a state juvenile prison in Pendleton.

In December, the Indiana Court of Appeals threw out Gingerich’s guilty plea and sentence, saying a Kosciusko County judge rushed when he waived the case to adult court. The appellate court ordered a new hearing to determine if Gingerich should be retried in a juvenile court. The Indiana Supreme Court last month declined to hear the case, clearing the way for the new hearing.

Kosciusko County Superior Court Judge Duane Huffer ruled in 2010 that Gingerich should be tried for murder as an adult. Gingerich later pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder. In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of murder and aiding and abetting murder.

Foster argued that Gingerich’s guilty plea was invalid because the case never should have been heard in an adult court, that Gingerich hadn’t understood the proceedings and that he had believed the judge was obligated to find him guilty. She also said the lower court had not allowed Gingerich’s attorneys sufficient time to prepare or conduct a proper investigation into his competency for an adult trial, and accepted a probation officer’s erroneous testimony concerning the availability of facilities other than prisons for youths convicted of violent crimes.

Police said Gingerich and a then-15-year-old co-defendant, Colt Lundy, shot and killed 49-year-old Phillip Danner on April 20, 2010, in his home near Lake Wawasee. Danner was Lundy’s stepfather. Another 12-year-old boy served as a lookout. The boys met later and took off in a car belonging to Lundy’s mother, who was in Florida on vacation.

The three were caught early the next morning in Peru, Ill., when a store clerk became suspicious of them and alerted police. The boys were reportedly trying to convert coins into paper bills.

Lundy pleaded guilty as an adult to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with five years suspended. Gingerich received a similar sentence.

During his January 2011 sentencing in Kosciusko Circuit Court, Gingerich stood and apologized for his actions in a brief statement to the court.

“I’m sorry for what happened to Mr. Danner, and I’m sorry for what the Danner family has gone through,” he said, before sitting down again in tears.

The boy’s father, Paul Gingerich Sr., also addressed the court during that hearing. He expressed condolences to Danner’s family, and said he grieved for a son he could no longer fish or play catch with.

“I know what my son did was wrong, but he should be punished as a child,”