A boy who was jailed for life at the age of 12:he tried as an adult after helping kill friend’s stepfather

While most children his age spend their days laughing with friends with nothing more serious to consider than their latest homework assignment, Paul Henry Gingerich is enduring an entirely different reality.

In 2010, at the age of 12, Paul, from Enchanted Hills, Indiana, was sentenced to 25-years in prison for his part in shooting dead a friend’s stepfather.

While his crime was undoubtedly terrible, what is perhaps equally shocking is that despite his age, Paul was tried as an adult and is now not due to be released until he is 37.

In Indiana, under extreme circumstances, children as young as 10 can be tried and sentenced in adult courts. However it is rare and Paul remains one of the youngest ever to be tried in this fashion.

Paul’s life was turned upside down on a fateful day in April, 2010, when he went from an ordinary kid, who had never been in trouble for anything more serious than talking in class and not finishing his homework, to a killer.

Paul, an older boy called Colt Lundy and another 12-year-old called Chase Williams, had planned to run away together.

But the then 15-year-old Lundy had told the other boys that his stepfather Phil Danner, would never allow it, so they would have to kill him first.

Lundy handed Paul a loaded gun and the pair crept through a window into Danner’s house where they sat in armchairs waiting for him to walk into the room.

The other younger boy Chase Williams had refused to go in and had remained outside the house.

In his original police confession Paul described what happened next: ‘Phil turned the corner and then he (Colt) shot him. I freaked out and closed my eyes and turned around and shot’, the Sunday Mirror reports.

The court documents say Paul told police he simply went along with his older friend and didn’t believe his friend was serious about killing his stepfather.

But in 2010 Paul was sentenced to 25 years in prison, for conspiring to fatally shoot 49-year-old Danner.

In December last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals threw out Paul’s guilty plea and sentence, saying a juvenile court judge rushed when he waived the case to adult court.

The appellate court ordered a new hearing to determine if Paul should be retried in a juvenile court.

However it is a massive gamble because if the court decides that Paul should be retried as an adult, for the more serious crime of murder, he could be sentenced to 65 years and remain incarcerated until the age of 77.

As things stand, Paul is due to spend the next three years in a juvenile facility before being transferred to Indiana’s notoriously tough Adult prison system.

His attorney, Monica Foster, said: ‘You really can’t appreciate just how horrific the adult prison system is unless you’ve been there.

‘For the last 30 years I’ve been in and out of the adult prison system in the State of Indiana and I wouldn’t let my dog go there for a week, much less a 12-year-old kid.’

His harrowing story is the subject of a new documentary by filmmaker Zara Hayes which is due to be aired on Channel 4 later this week.

Paul’s mother Nicole said: ‘I’m in disbelief with the whole thing.

‘Surely if you had an adult male or female who had the brain capacity of a 12-year-old, they would not be tried as an adult.’

By all reports Paul has been a model prisoner. He attends school inside the juvenile prison five days a week, where he works hard in the hope that achieving good grades will mean the chance of a good job when he is released.

His teachers describe him as a role model and one of the best behaved children in the institution.

His father Paul Senior, said: ‘I never wanted him to get off scot free. He did commit a crime and I don’t want people to see him as a victim because Phil Danner was the victim in this case.

‘But you can’t throw a child in with adults and expect him not to get screwed up.’

Paul is now a long way from the floppy-haired 12-year-old who made that terrible decision three years ago.

Now sporting a crew cut, his grey eyes appear to have lost much of their innocence. Prison hasĀ  hardened him.

But incredibly he says he is grateful for what he has,.

He says: ‘I believe I have matured faster than other kids my age.

‘I’m starting to think before I act more and not be so impulsive. Now I’m more grateful for what I have.’


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