Sentenced to life aged 12: The Justin Bieber look-a-like jailed for helping to murder his friend's stepfather after being tried as an adult
Paul Gingerich sentenced to 25-years for shooting a friend's stepfatherHe was tried as an adult and is not due to be released until he is 37Story is the subject of a gripping new documentary to be aired this week
With his floppy fringe and sweet, angelic face it is plain to see why his teachers described him as looking like Justin Bieber's cute younger brother.
But 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.
Childhood behind bars: Paul Henry Gingerich, now 15, sits in his cramped cell in juvenile detention
Killer: Gingerich was sentenced to 25 years in
prison for helping kill a friend's stepfather after being tried in an
adult court at the age of 12
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.
Prison life: Paul Gingerich, now 15, is due to spend three more years in juvenile detention before being moved to Indiana's notoriously tough adult prison system
Killers: Gingerich (left) was sentenced to 25
years for conspiracy to commit murder. With Colt Lundy (right), then 15,
he shot dead Lundy's stepfather who they feared would not let them run
away to Arizona
Paul, an older boy called Colt Lundy and another 12-year-old called Chase Williams, had planned to run away together.
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.
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
Victim: Paul Gingerich was found guilty of conspiring to fatally shoot 49-year-old Phillip Danner (pictured)
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.'
Tough life: Gingerich now 15, has been described as a role model at Pendleton Juvenile Correction Facility where he is currently incarcerated
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.'
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Carefree: Gingerich, who will be sent to an
adult prison before he turns 21, said he wishes he had just gone home
the day he discussed killing the man with two friends in a park
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 has 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.'