Judge sentences Townville school shooter Jesse Osborne to life in prison
TOWNVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Townville school shooter Jesse Osborne will spend the rest of his life behind bars, the judge ruled late Thursday.
The judge sentenced the 17-year-old to life in prison for the murders of his father, Jeff Osborne, and six-year-old Jacob Hall, and an additional 30-years in prison for the attempted murder of three others in 2016
On September 28, 2016, Jesse Osborne shot and killed his father in their Townville home before driving to Townville Elementary, where he opened fire on the playground. Hall was one of the four wounded in the attack. The boy died days later.
Jacob Hall’s mother, Renee, said she felt a relief when the judge issued the sentence.
“It was a relief,” Renee Hall said after the hearing. “(Osborne) took a life and he deserves life.”
The sentence came at the end of a full day of testimony from the defense’s witnesses, a reexamination of psych experts, and tearful testimony from victims and family members connected to the tragedy.
Tommy Osborne, Jesse’s grandfather, was the first to testify.
Tommy spoke about his son, Jeff, who Osborne killed before driving to Townville elementary in September 2016 and opening fire at the school.
Tommy spoke about Jeff operating a chicken farm and how that impacted both Jeff and Jesse.
Tommy said Jeff would start drinking after he tended to chickens in the morning and could get mean. Mean enough for Tommy to carry a gun when he was around his son.
Tommy also spoke about Jesse getting expelled from school after taking a machete to school, the boy’s lack of friends, his lack of contact with people his own age, the boy being stuck at home all the time, and how he began home-schooling via online classes.
Tommy testified that he felt Jesse’s home conditions had a negative impac
t on the boy.
Tommy testified that Jesse just wasn’t the same type child after he got expelled from school. He became more withdrawn and his demeanor changed.
Tommy also stated that if Jesse ever gets out of prison, he will be cared for by the family.
“There will be money, land and a good Christian couple to take care of him,” Tommy Osborne said. “Teach him how to buy groceries, drive a car, whatever he needs,” Tommy Osborne said.
“If he does get out, he wants to be a preacher,” the grandfather testified. “He can save lives.”
PSYCHIATRIST FOR THE DEFENSE
Dr. Donna Schwartz Maddox was next to testify. She said she had interviewed Osborne many times and closely examined the boy’s home life prior to the killings.
Maddox testified that Osborne’s family was a broken one.
“This family is broken,” she said. “They are broken from the top to the bottom. They were broken before this crime happened and they are even more broken now.”
Maddox also testified that there was domestic violence in the home at the hands of Jeff. She said one problem was that the rest of the family, who didn’t live in the home, was that they only got a partial view of what went on within the home.
Maddox argued that in addition to being abused by his father at home, Jesse was also “abused at school” at the hands of bullies.
Maddox said Osborne did not initially think he would face adult-level punishment for the killings and held that belief for a long time.
Maddox argued that she disagreed with other doctors’ diagnoses of conduct disorder. She believes most of Osborne’s symptoms stem from the trauma he experienced in his life.
Maddox also stated she was optimistic that Osborne would respond well to treatment and could be rehabilitated. On Wednesday, the prosecution’s psychiatric experts stated they were not optimistic that Osborne could be rehabilitated.
When the judge asked if Maddox felt Osborne could contribute to society again, she said yes, if the teen has treatment he will one day be in touch with his emotions.
“There is room for growth,” Maddox told the judge. “There is room for treatment and rehabilitation.”
PSYCH EXPERTS CALLED BACK TO STAND
Clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Mark Wagner was then called back to the stand and testified that he feels Osborne is the byproduct of a perfect storm.
On Wednesday, Wagner testified that the perfect combination of “nature and nurture” were in place in Osborne’s case.
Forensic psychologist Dr. James C Ballenger also returned to the stand to maintain his position that Osborne likely suffers from conduct disorder.
He said the teen meets five criteria for diagnosis: lack of remorse, lack of empathy, unconcern of performance of school, and shallow emotions.
Ballenger said he believes Osborne has an “emerging personality disorder,” but again clarified that testing for personality disorders cannot begin until Osborne turns 18.
Ballenger agreed Osborne would benefit from cognitive therapy because he would learn about emotions, but Ballenger maintained that medication won’t help Osborne with a personality disorder.
“30 to 50 years from now - none of us have a crystal ball,” the doctor said. “One thing I am confident about personality disorders don’t get better.”
When asked if Ballenger believed Osborne is dangerous and will remain dangerous, his response was, “Yes, yes and he come become more dangerous.”
TEARFUL TESTIMONY FROM VICTIM’S FAMILIES
The state called several witnesses and family members of the victims from the Townville tragedy.
The first to speak was Anderson County School District Four Superintendent Joanne Avery.
Avery spoke about 1:41 p.m., “the moment of terror” and described the horrors that appeared to her to be frozen in time after the violence.
The mother of Jacob Hall, the six-year-old boy who died after he was shot on the playground of Townville Elementary school told the court that while she could never forget what Jesse did to her son, she has forgiven him.
“There’s still a hole in my heart,” Renee Hall told the judge. “I miss baby. I know he’ll never celebrate another birthday.”
She concluded with, “I wholeheartedly forgive Jesse but I can’t forget. That’s what Jacob would want me to do.”
Jesse Osborne himself briefly addressed the judge, saying “I want help.”
The judge then spoke directly to Osborne for several minutes before handing down the sentence.
After the hearing Solicitor David Wagner said he was pleased that the judge issued the full sentence.
Osborne’s defense attorney, Frank Eppes, expressed his disappointment and said through tears that he will be filing an appeal within a few days.
Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride was also in court for the sentencing. He said he was happy with the sentence and felt “justice was upheld.”
Later in the evening, we received this statement from Avery:
“September 28, 2016 forever changed Anderson School District Four as one of our school communities in Townville was the victim of a horrific school shooting. While today’s sentencing brings closure to a part of this tragedy, there are no winners. Jacob, a beloved student who touched many lives with his kindness, tragically lost his life. Three other families were impacted by the emotional and physical wounds of family members. Many will deal with the traumatic impact for years to come. And a former student, whose family is a part of our community, now has been sentenced to life in prison.
“We are a community still struggling to deal with the aftermath of this tragedy. We appreciate all efforts by first responders, law enforcement, the legal system, and our community as we continue to move forward. We ask for continued prayers for all the victims. We are Townville Strong!”
Copyright 2019 WHNS. All rights reserved.