School shooter sentencing: South Carolina teen killed one student, plotted to kill dozens

Nikie Mayo, The Greenville News
School shooter sentencing: South Carolina teen killed one student, plotted to kill dozens

ANDERSON, S.C. – A sentencing hearing began Tuesday for Jesse Osborne, 17, who pleaded guilty to killing his father, then firing on the Townville Elementary School playground Sept. 28, 2016, fatally wounding 6-year-old Jacob Hall.

During the first day of the hearing, a jail investigator testified that Osborne attempted to escape, and an FBI agent presented digital evidence that Osborne plotted to kill more than 50 students in 2016.

Investigators said Osborne shot his father, Jeffrey Osborne, 47, then stole his truck and drove it to the school 3 miles away.

Jacob, the first-grader who was fatally wounded on the school playground, died three days later. He had a superhero-themed funeral, and a portion of a road in Townville was named in his honor.

Because Osborne was 14 at the time of the shooting, state law requires a special hearing before he is sentenced, according to Solicitor David Wagner, the lead prosecutor in the case.

At this week's hearing, a judge will consider psychological evaluations of Osborne, his family life and home environment and whether he can be rehabilitated.

The sentencing hearing for Osborne is likely to last several days at the Anderson County Courthouse.

Townville Elementary School shooter Jesse Osborne on the first day of the sentencing hearing, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. Osborne, now 17, was 14 years old when murdered his 47-year-old father Jeffrey Osborne and 6-year-old Jacob Hall. He pleaded guilty to the crimes and faces 30 years to life in prison.

Jesse Osborne sentencing begins

A jail investigator testified Tuesday that Osborne has been charged with attempting to escape from the Greenville County Juvenile Detention Center last month after a hole was found near his cell and video showed him working on it.

Details about Osborne's online activity were also presented in court.

FBI Special Agent Shandal Ewing testified about her study of Osborne's online activity in the days leading up to the shooting. Ewing said that Osborne planned the shooting for at least six days prior and talked about the plan on Instagram.

Among messages attributed to the teen:

  • "Should I shoot up my middle school or my elementary school?"
  • "I think I'll most likely kill around 50 or 60."

Tuesday's hearing opened with testimony from Ewing, who read aloud multiple messages attributed to Osborne that circulated through what she said was a "true crime community" of people communicating over Instagram. The group, she said, shared interests in mass murders and serial killers.

Osborne talked about how the elementary school didn't have cops and that he could get there within four minutes, Ewing said. 

Anderson County Sheriff's Office Detective McKindra Bibb, who extracted and analyzed data from Osborne's phone, testified that Osborne conducted extensive searches for information on mass shootings in the month before the Townville shooting.

Bibb said Osborne deeply researched the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting by Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old who shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children ages 6 and 7, in Newtown, Connecticut. Bibb said Osborne also researched the family history of Lanza.

Osborne faces a minimum of 30 years in prison and could be sentenced to the rest of his life behind bars. David Wagner, the lead prosecutor on this case, has said he will seek the maximum sentence.

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What happened during the Townville Elementary School shooting?

  • Jesse Osborne, who was 14 at the time, shot his father three times in their home in Townville on Sept. 28, 2016. 
  • He then put on a vest he wore when playing with AirSoft guns, he said during his interview with investigators. Then he "hugged all the animals" before leaving his house in his father's truck to drive to the school 3 miles away, he said.
  • Osborne told FBI Special Agent Aleta Bollinger and Tracy Call, an investigator at the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, that he used his father's gun while firing on the playground. He said he would have killed more people, but the gun jammed.
  • Jacob Hall, a 6-year-old, was mortally wounded on the playground that day and died three days later. Osborne also pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted murder related to trying to kill two other students and a first grade teacher on the playground.
  • Jesse Osborne was stopped by Jamie Brock, an armed Anderson County firefighter who was working about a mile and a half from the campus and responded to the scene. Brock sped to the school and found Osborne near the playground, pinned him down and placed his knee in Osborne's back to hold him, Brock testified. 

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Follow Nikie Mayo on Twitter: @nikiemayo

This article originally appeared on The Greenville News: Jesse Osborne sentencing: Townville school shooting left 1 dead in SC