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Boy who killed his dad and a six-year-old boy apologizes, wants life sentence shortened

By Sarah May on
 May 23, 2023

Sentenced to life in prison for a deadly shooting that occurred when he was 14 years old, a 21-year-old South Carolina man is now asking a judge to reconsider his prison term so that he might have some hope of one day regaining his freedom, as the Associated Press reports.

Jesse Osborne pleaded guilty as a young teen to killing his father before traveling to Townville Elementary School, where he opened fire, killing a first-grade student and injuring several others, ultimately receiving a sentence of life imprisonment plus 30 additional years for attempted murder.

Fateful Day Leads to Life Sentence

As the Daily Mail explains, Osborne's future was effectively sealed following a series of shocking events that transpired in late September of 2016.

Speaking to authorities after his killing spree, Osborne stated that his father had been drinking the night before and complaining about finances, adding, “he was getting up in my face and stuff. And whenever he's drunk, he always, like, says he wants to fight me....”

The following morning, after a dispute about homework, Osborne said, “that's the point where I went into his drawer and loaded his gun,” ultimately shooting him dead.

Then, Osborne detailed to investigators, “I gave my rabbit a kiss, went back up, gave all the dogs kisses, and then went in [his father's] truck and drove to school,” where he began spraying gunfire on the playground, fatally wounding six-year-old Jacob Hall – an outcome the killer said was unintentional.

Reconsideration Sought

On Monday, a judge in Anderson County heard Osborne's arguments seeking reconsideration of his sentence, something his attorney, Frank Eppes, said would provide the young man with “some hope to live with.”

Eppes contended that during the original sentencing process for Osborne, the judge did not give due consideration to a psychologist's assessment indicating that abuse was to blame for his client's violent conduct and that rehabilitation was possible in his case.

As Greenville NBC affiliate WYFF noted, Osborne addressed the court on his own behalf, saying, “I'd just like to say, I know at this point it's going to seem hollow, and I'm not saying this to get a lesser sentence, I would just like to say sorry to my family for everything I've done, sorry to the Hall family for everything and sorry to every kid that was at that playground that day, every student at that school that day, every teacher at that school that day.”

“I'm just going to try to better myself in the Department of Corrections the rest of my life,” Osborne continued.

Prosecutors, Victims Oppose Request

Standing in opposition to Osborne's bid for reconsideration, however, were the teacher whose class was on the school playground that fateful day, the parent of a child wounded in the shooting, the father of a child whose birthday was being celebrated by classmates that day, and school officials, as the AP noted.

School principal Denise Fredericks seemed to sum up the feeling of many when she said, “I do wish Jesse a life where he can wake up, breathe, eat, work, be productive – but not outside the walls of a prison.”

Meghan Hollingsworth, a teacher who was wounded by Osborne added, “The fear and pain from the day might not be raw and in the forefront of our minds, but it is still there every day in the background affecting emotions and everyday decisions. A child screaming out in joy or a door slamming or a metal water bottle dropping to the floor are no longer innocent sounds, first comes the panic before the realization of what actually happened.”

Prosecutors pointed out that Osborne went to the school intending to kill many more and only failed in the attempt because he had the wrong ammunition for the weapon he brought. “He didn't stop because he wanted to. The gun jammed,” recalled Fredericks.

Decision Hangs in Balance

As the AP indicated, in seeking reconsideration of Osborne's sentence, the young man's attorney suggested to the judge that a 30-year minimum sentence for the murder counts could be imposed, together with another 15-year sentence for attempted murder.

Subsequent to the fulfillment of those sentences, the attorney said, Osbourne could then be subject to lifetime GPS monitoring once released, with a review available after 10 years.

Presiding Judge Lawton McIntosh requested that a defense expert produce a report on Osborne's status within the next month and indicated that prosecutors would be given a least 10 days in which to respond before any decision would be rendered.

Regardless of what the judge ultimately decides, with Osborne's best-case scenario being a release from prison in his 50s or 60s, it is clear that lives on both sides of the equation in this case were irreparably and profoundly harmed by what occurred nearly seven years ago, and the truly tragic nature of the entire situation is beyond dispute.