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Court overturns boy's guilty plea in Ind. slaying

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm •  Published: December 11, 2012

"I just think he is the poster-child for successful juvenile rehabilitation," Foster said.

The court's ruling noted that Gingerich didn't understand the proceedings. The court cited a psychologist who found that the boy thought the judge was obligated to find him guilty, didn't understand plea bargaining, and didn't understand many of the words used by his lawyer.

The appellate court rejected the state's arguments that Gingerich had given up his right to appeal as part of the plea agreement and found that a probation officer had provided the trial judge misinformation about the availability of private detention facilities.

Still, going back to juvenile court could be a gamble for the boy, who is now 14 and is eligible for release when he's 24. There's no guarantee the case wouldn't be sent to adult court again, and Gingerich could risk a longer prison sentence if he is charged again with murder as an adult.

Police said Gingerich and a 15-year-old co-defendant shot and killed Danner on April 20, 2010, in his home near Lake Wawasee about midway between Fort Wayne and South Bend. Another 12-year-old boy allegedly served as a lookout. The boys met later and took off in a car belonging to the 15-year-old'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 allegedly trying to convert coins into paper bills.

The 15-year-old pleaded guilty as an adult to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The other 12-year-old, who was present but didn't enter the house, was sentenced to juvenile detention until age 18.