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Court to revisit adult trial for killer, 14

Gingerich

The Indiana Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case of 14-year-old Paul Henry Gingerich, charged as an adult in the 2010 slaying of a Kosciusko County man.

The arguments are set for Oct. 30. The Court of Appeals announced the hearing date this week, months after allowing the appeal to proceed.

Gingerich’s attorneys filed an appeal in the case, asking the higher court to overturn an April 2010 decision by Kosciusko Superior Court Judge Duane Huffer to waive Gingerich into adult court to face a charge of murder.

The then-12-year-old Gingerich, along with then-15-year-old Colt Lundy, were each charged with murder in the death of Philip Danner, Lundy’s stepfather.

They shot him to death April 20, 2010, inside his Kosciusko County home.

They both pleaded guilty to charges of aiding in a murder.

The decision on whether to waive Gingerich into adult court came just days after he obtained a lawyer. Huffer denied a request by Gingerich’s attorney at the time to delay the hearing to allow mental health experts to evaluate Gingerich to see whether he was competent to assist in his own defense.

Gingerich’s appellate attorney, Monica Foster, argued in written motions that her client was not competent at the time because of his young age.

Foster argued that Huffer’s decision to waive Gingerich into adult court was invalid because the court did not properly evaluate Gingerich’s developmental state, ignored requirements for handling juvenile cases and violated his right to due process by pushing the hearing through so quickly, and was an abuse of his discretion, according to court documents.

And even though Gingerich eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding in a murder and waived his right to appeal the case, his attorneys argued in their appeal that because he never should have been waived to adult court in the first place, the guilty plea and waiver are void and unconscionable.

Representing the state and the prosecutors, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office asked the court to dismiss Gingerich’s appeal, saying he should be held to the terms of the plea agreement and his waiver of his right to appeal.

That request was denied this year, and the appeal was allowed to proceed.

Another 12-year-old involved in the case was sent to a state juvenile detention center after he admitted his role in the plan to kill Danner; he was released after completion of the program.

According to court documents, Lundy, Gingerich and other young boys hatched a plan to run away to the Southwest and sell T-shirts.

Lundy said he had to kill his stepfather before he could leave.

Lundy summoned two of the boys to his home. Ultimately it was Gingerich who joined Lundy, and the two waited for Danner to come home, each armed with a gun, court documents said.

When Danner entered the living room, they shot him four times, though court documents said Gingerich had his eyes shut when he fired the gun and that both the fatal shots came from Lundy.

Later that evening, the other boy and Gingerich left with Lundy, fleeing the state in Danner’s car.

They were picked up more than 200 miles away in Illinois, after a Walmart clerk, suspicious of an early-morning attempt to exchange coins, called police.

In early 2011, Kosciusko Circuit Judge Rex Reed accepted Gingerich’s plea and sentenced the boy to 25 years in prison. He denied a request by Gingerich’s then-lawyers to have him placed in a juvenile facility, instead ordering him to serve his time in the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility’s “Youths Incarcerated as Adults” wing.

But the Indiana Department of Correction sidestepped Reed’s order and instead placed the diminutive 12-year-old in its Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, citing his age and the department’s obligation to keep him safe.

rgreen@jg.net

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