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Sentencing hearing begins for SC school shooter who entered guilty pleas

Jail investigator said he made an attempt to escape from jail
Updated: Nov. 12, 2019 at 4:34 PM EST
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TOWNVILLE, S.C. (WYFF/WCSC/AP) - Five people testified Tuesday in the first day of a sentencing hearing for the suspect in the 2016 shooting at Townville Elementary School.

In December, Jesse Osborne entered guilty pleas on five indictments -- two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors say Osborne killed his father, 47-year-old Jeffrey Osborne, in their Anderson County home on Sept. 28, 2016, then drove to Townville Elementary School and shot at students outside.

Jacob Hall, 6, died in the shooting. (Source: Facebook/WHNS)
Jacob Hall, 6, died in the shooting. (Source: Facebook/WHNS)

Osbourne shot two students and a teacher. One of the students, 6-year-old Jacob Hall, was shot in the leg and suffered massive blood loss. He died three days later.

FBI Special Agent Shandal Ewing was the first person to take the stand Tuesday. She has the case file about Osborne and discussed his social media activity. One of the social media posts from Sept 2016 shown and read displayed a gun that Osborne said he planed on getting soon, Ewing says. Ewing testified about the social media posts Osborne made days before the shooting, saying he talked about shooting about 50 people.

Anderson County Sheriff’s Office forensic investigator McKindra Bibb then took the stand. She discussed Osborne’s internet searches, testifying that he searched topics including the Columbine shooting, the Pulse nightclub shooting and the Sandy Hook shooting. She said Osborne was live on Skype in a group chat during the shooting. Bibb said someone in the group said she could hear gunshots and children screaming.

Next on the stand was Chrissy Cato, from Greenville County Schools. She taught Osborne and described him as "very smart. She said Osborne enjoyed science and astrology. She read computer records that indicated Osborne searched “schizophrenia,” “Anderson,” “Townville, South Carolina”and “autism.”

Anderson County Sheriff’s Jail Investigator Nathan Mitchell testified that Osborne was making a hole in the wall in his jail cell and “made an attempt to escape.”

Jean Claycomb, a volunteer who works with a ministry for jailed youth and the Greenville County Department of Juvenile Justice, was the final witness of the day. She said she has worked with Osborne for two years. She said he was closed and guarded when she met him, and had a hard time connecting with him, but he eventually matured and expressed remorse for the shooting.

Authorities said a teacher called 911 from a classroom at 1:45 p.m. to report that a male was shooting at the school. The suspect never made it inside the building. Deputies said the teen drove a Dodge Ram onto school property, and then jumped a fence and ran onto the playground.

Taylor Jones, Anderson County Emergency Services Director, said a Townville volunteer firefighter engaged the armed teenager, “took him down,” and held him until deputies arrived.

In a portion of the 46-page transcript of Osborne’s video confession, he also alluded to the Mother Emanuel AME massacre in Charleston.

Suspect: “And you will see a bunch of Columbine and stuff like that on my page and stuff. I felt like this year, it’s like I had –”

Officer: “Because you’ve been bullied?”

Suspect: “Yeah. Basically, just started stuff.”Suspect: “Because nothing ever happened in this area.”

Officer: “Not in little Townville, you know?”

Suspect: “Only thing that’s happened in South Carolina is down at that church. So I can understand that. But—”

Officer: “How do you feel about the church?”

Suspect: “The church shooting – this guy with a mental illness went in, killed a bunch of black people, and then that’s how he—now he’s dead, isn’t he? On death row?”

Officer: “No. He’s still alive.”

Suspect: “I can’t get to death row, can I? I’m pretty sure I can’t. Because I would not want that.”

Officer: “Well, let me ask you this. What did you think the outcome today would be?”

Suspect: “Like total wise? I was thinking 20, 30 kids. I don’t even know.”

Osborne had turned 14 just 20 days before the killings.

He was first charged as a juvenile with two counts of murder, three charges of attempted murder and five charges of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. A judge later ruled he should be tried as an adult, making a life sentence possible.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires this hearing, where a judge will consider Osborne’s age and maturity, the circumstances of the crime, his home environment and the possibility of rehabilitation.

Osborne faces 30 years to life without parole.

He has been in custody since the shooting.

Copyright 2019 WCSC/WYFF. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.