Gary Lindsey could have been in jail when he killed 4 children, shot officer

Judge agreed suspect needed to continue payments to arson victim

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The man who killed four children and critically injured an Orlando police officer could have been in jail at the time of the shooting if it wasn’t for payments he needed to make for burning his ex-girlfriend’s house down in 2008, according to courtroom video from recent Volusia County probation hearings.

Lindsey appeared before Volusia County Judge James Clayton for two violation of probation hearings on May 16 and 23 related to his 35-year probation sentence he received from the 2008 arson case in which he burned down his ex-girlfriend's Deltona house. Clayton oversaw Lindsey's sentencing in that case.

The hearings came after Lindsey's fourth violation of probation, when he was arrested for shoplifting at a Walmart Store in Sanford days before. 

Lindsey's defense attorney said three of those violations were technical, but Clayton said theft is not.

"This one ain't technical, this is grand theft, what happened to that?" Clayton said during the May 16 hearing. "How is he ... how is he avoiding that 10 year suspended sentence?"

Clayton then recalled it was his ruling in the 2008 case to put Lindsey on 35 years of probation instead of going to prison. The decision was to allow Lindsey to pay $20,000 in restitution to the victim for burning down her house.

"I remember thinking that the restitution was 'Why I didn't put you in prison?'" Clayton told Lindsey seen in the video wearing an orange jumpsuit. "It was an oddball type thing, I never do suspended sentences."

It was the same reasoning why he decided again, even with Lindsey's fourth violation of probation, to let him go free. The judge approving a deal by the state and defense to keep Lindsey out of jail that would allow him to continue to pay the victim.

"I don't mind doing it, if y'all are happy I'm happy, I'm just saying you've got to be careful," Clayton warned Lindsey.

Court records show, Lindsey's "significant other" Ciara Lopez, the mother of all four children killed on Monday, was in court in his support during the May 16 hearing.

At the second hearing, Lindsey’s mother and sister appeared in support. Lindsey's sister made a $1,000 restitution payment for Lindsey. The judge said that literally "saved him" from going to prison.

"That saved him," Clayton told Lindsey's sister. "Restitution is the key to this whole thing."

That decision came down 19 days before Lindsey would shoot Orlando police Officer Kevin Valencia, causing a 24-hour standoff during which time he fatally shot Irayan Pluth, 12, Lillia Pluth, 10, Aidan Lindsey, 6,, and Dove Lindsey, 1.

Valencia is in critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center. His trauma surgeon said Thursday he has a long road to recovery.

News 6 Expert Steven Kramer said the state and the judge trying to protect and provide for the original victim in this case was most likely the mitigating factor in letting Lindsey go free.

"This is absolutely a judge's worse nightmare," Kramer said. "They make a decision with the information and facts in front of them and something unforeseeable happens and something tragic happens like what we have here. I can't imagine."

About the Authors:

Nadeen Yanes joined News 6 as a general assignment reporter in 2016. She grew up in Leesburg and graduated from the University of Florida. Nadeen has won three Associated Press Awards for her reporting on the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the trial of the Pulse gunman's wife and the capture of an accused cop killer, Markeith Loyd.