Paul Gingerich was twelve and Colt Lundy was fifteen when they murdered Colt’s stepfather as he sat sleeping in his chair. The preteens would then steal the family car and would be arrested at a Walmart in Illinois the next day. Both of the teen killers would stand trial and be sentenced as adults and received thirty years each in prison. Both have since been released from prison after their initial sentences were reduced
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Paul Henry Gingerich was just 12 when he helped a friend Colt Lundy murder his stepfather.
He also became famous. His story was featured on news shows and crime documentaries, and his case becoming a cause célèbre and a measuring stick on the fairness of the American juvenile justice system.
Here’s what we know about Gingerich and Lundy today, nearly a decade after their crime.
It was shocking when Gingerich and his 15-year-old friend, Colt Lundy, were arrested for the 2010 murder of Phil Danner, a husband, father, machinist and member of the American Legion.
Gingerich, who stands 6 feet tall now, was pint-sized with the face of an urchin and bangs reaching to the top of his eyes. Although he was three years older, Lundy wasn’t much taller than his accomplice and looked very innocent, too, with a face full of freckles.
But Gingerich and Lundy were accused of firing two shots each into Danner’s body.
After the killing, Gingerich, Lundy and a third boy quickly gathered up a few things, including Danner’s wallet, a handgun and some marijuana a friend gave them, and jumped into Danner’s car.
They then headed west on a cross-country trip that ended when they were stopped by a police officer in Peru, Ill.
Gingerich was believed to be the youngest person in Indiana ever sentenced as an adult.
Few could understand what could cause two people so young to commit such a heinous crime.
Lundy said later that he got along well enough with his stepfather — when Danner was sober.
But when Danner drank whiskey and lapsed into one of his tirades, Lundy said, Danner would then become verbally and physically abusive toward him.
Eventually, all Lundy could think about was escaping. One day he took matters into his own hands, after conceiving a plot to kill his stepfather.
On the night of April 20, 2010, Lundy and Gingerich climbed through a window of Lundy’s bedroom in his family’s home in the Enchanted Hills neighborhood of Cromwell, Indiana, in Kosciusko County. They then grabbed two of the many guns Danner had stashed around the house and waited for him in the living room.
At first, they debated about whether they should go through with it. But as Danner, who was in another part of the house, got up and walked into the living room, he suddenly saw the two boys with guns pointed at him.
All he had time to say was “What the f—?” — according to Lundy’s description in a court record — before each boy fired two bullets into his body, killing Danner instantly.
On April 29, 2010, Kosciusko County Superior Court Judge Duane Huffer moved Gingerich’s case into (adult) criminal court, at the request of prosecutors. The next day Gingerich was charged with murder.
About six months later, both boys pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder and both were sentenced to serve 25 years in prison.
While the murder of Danner was shocking for its brutality and callousness, some in the U.S. and abroad thought the sentences were too severe — especially given the ages of the defendants.
In an amicus curae brief filed in November 2011, the Children’s Law Center, the National Juvenile Defender Center and the Campaign for Youth Justice argued against the “dire consequences” of prosecuting youths in the adult justice system.
Gingerich was sent to the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility to serve his sentence, while Lundy was sent to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.
Even with credits for good behavior, that sentence could have kept Gingerich locked up until his mid-20s, with some of that time likely spent in an adult prison.
But both cases had only just begun to wind their way through the Indiana court system.
Soon after he entered prison, Indianapolis attorney Monica Foster began an appeal for Gingerich on a pro-bono basis, meaning she would work on the case for free.
In December 2012, the Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Gingerich. The appeals court reversed his 2010 conviction, after determining that a Kosciusko County court had erred by not giving his attorneys enough time to make the case that he should have been tried as a juvenile.
The Indiana attorney general’s reaction at the time was guarded, saying it would continue to work with the Kosciusko County prosecutor’s office “in this difficult matter involving the violent taking of a human life by a juvenile.”
“This offender’s age at the time of the crime prompted a necessary discussion about the rights of the accused, but no one should lose sight of the fact that there is still a deceased victim and the rights of crime victims also should be respected and protected,” the attorney general said in a statement to the IndyStar.
Foster said at the time that Gingerich’s nearly three years of good conduct showed he could be rehabilitated. Foster also planned to introduce expert testimony on brain development to show that children as young as 12 were unable to judge the consequences of their actions.
Gingerich’s case inspired child advocates and juvenile justice activists to lobby for change in Indiana’s juvenile sentencing guidelines. Their efforts resulted in a new law, dubbed “Paul’s Law,” passed in 2013, that gave Indiana courts greater flexibility in deciding juvenile sentences.
In a deal struck with the prosecutor in December 2013, Gingerich again pleaded guilty, this time at the age of 15. The difference: Judge James Heuer applied the new sentencing rules, agreeing to monitor Gingerich’s progress toward rehabilitation in juvenile prison until his release several years later.
A qualified yes.
Gingerich was released from the Pendleton prison in March 2017, after nearly seven years behind bars.
He was 19 at the time of his release and is 21 now.
After his release, Gingerich began living with his mother, Nicole, in Fort Wayne, but he had to undergo 24-hour electronic monitoring with an ankle bracelet until July 2018, as well as close supervision by the court. He also took a job in a manufacturing facility.
“He’s really working hard on doing everything he is supposed to do and really trying to move forward,” his mother told the IndyStar.
The court’s supervision of Gingerich will continue until February 2020, at which time he will begin 10 years of probation.
A northern Indiana judge agreed to allow Lundy to enter home detention earlier than expected.
In October 2018, Kosciusko County Judge David Cates heard the 23-year-old Lundy’s request for a sentence modification.
Lundy had requested to serve the rest of his term on home detention, saying he had served his prison time, so far, without incident and had taken advantage of programs offered to him, including “obtaining a higher education degree.”
It was the second time Lundy had done so; an earlier request for a sentence reduction in 2016 had been rejected.
But this time was different. Lundy will be allowed to finish his sentence out of prison starting March 15 of 2019, according to the Associated Press. He will then be put on probation.
Kosciusko County Prosecutor Daniel Hampton said after Gingerich was re-sentenced in 2013 that the new law “applies very well in this case” and allows for flexibility that a prior judge didn’t have when Gingerich was first sentenced.
Foster has long said that Gingerich was a good prospect for rehabilitation.
“I’ve known him for the last 2½ years and I am willing to bet the mortgage on Paul Gingerich,” Foster said in 2013. “He is a good kid who did a very bad thing.”
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