‘The pain is real’

By Riley Morningstar

The Journal
ANDERSON — Before he was sentenced to life in prison, the victims of Jesse Osborne spoke about how the teen altered a community — and an elementary school — forever.

People affected by the 2016 Townville Elementary shooting hug after Jesse Osborne was sentenced to life in prison Thursday at the Anderson County Courthouse.

Family members of 6-year-old Jacob Hall said they don’t go a day without thinking about what happened at Townville Elementary School more than three years ago.

In the wake of her son’s death, Renae Hall struggled with substance abuse and subsequent arrests.

In court, she read a statement saying she had changed her life through Christianity.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Jacob,” Hall said. “I think about how different he would be. Those are just that, thoughts. The pain is real and the pain took me down a path to get to a point where I didn’t care anymore. I saw drugs as a way to cope and take the hurt away from the loss of my sweet baby Jacob.”

Hall said she “wholeheartedly” forgives Osborne, but won’t ever forget what happened.

No more balloons at the school

Teacher Meghan Hollingsworth was shot in the shoulder and still has shrapnel in her mouth after an unsuccessful surgery, she said.

“I never imagined that recess could be the scariest time of day,” she said. “My physical wounds were minor and have mostly healed, but the emotional toll of the events that afternoon will last forever.”
Hollingsworth said her 5-year-old daughter was two doors down from the shooting in a kindergarten classroom.

Townville Elementary principal Denise Fredericks said Osborne’s acts were “heartbreaking on so many levels.”

Fredericks said Osborne was a “good kid” when he went to Townville and she hoped his heart had “changed and that he could use his life to do some good in the future, but not outside of a prison wall.”

“Our school family is forever without Jacob Hall,” Fredericks said through tears. “We grieve him daily. We see his little brother and sister at school. We hurt for them. We grieve for his family. Jacob’s life should not have been taken. That has a daily impact on us all.”

Fredericks said balloons popping at a school dance caused students to drop to the floor two years ago. The school immediately ended the dance and has stopped using balloons at school events.

“Kids ask if the bad person is coming back to shoot them,” she said. “They’ve asked why he wanted to hurt them. While on the playground … when loud cars and trucks go by on (S.C.) Highway 24, play is sometimes disrupted and they direct their attention until they are reassured it’s OK. If they see someone legitimately in the church parking lot across from the playground, their level of concern increases.”

Anderson County School District 4 superintendent Joanne Avery read a statement saying the “sanctity” of schools has been rocked by shootings.

“It is an incident that greatly impacted me as a parent, educator and leader,” Avery said. “Unfathomably, Townville Elementary is now in the list of growing school shootings in the United States — a list that no school or district wants to be on. The sanctity of our schools — the places where children go to learn and grow — has been shaken and terrorized by gun violence.”

One child wrote a letter to Judge Lawton McIntosh reading, “He killed my second best friend and showed up on my number one BFF’s birthday. I feel very, very, very mad.”

Mitzi Richards, the sister of Osborne’s mother, Tiffney Osborne, apologized to the Hall family for what her nephew had done.

“To the Hall family, I am so sorry that someone I love so much did something so horrible and it caused you so much hurt,” Richardson said. “I attended Jacob Hall’s funeral on behalf of my family, and they greeted me with nothing but kindness. I was terrified to go, and it is a sight I will forever have in my mind.”

 

rmorningstar@upstatetoday.com | (864) 973-6685