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Prosecutor: Messages show teen plotted SC school shooting

Prosecutor: Messages show teen plotted SC school shooting

FILE – In this Feb. 16, 2018 file photo, Jesse Osborne waits for a ruling at the Anderson County Courthouse in Anderson, S.C. Prosecutors plan to tell a judge why Osborne, who fired on a South Carolina school playground and killed a first-grader should spend his life in prison. A hearing begins Monday, Nov. 11, 2019 at the Anderson County Courthouse to determine Osborne’s sentence. He faces 30 years to life without parole. (Ken Ruinard/The Independent-Mail via AP, Pool, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Prosecutors who want a teen to serve a lifelong prison sentence for killing a first-grader on a South Carolina school playground are showing a judge cellphone videos and messages that they say showed he planned the crime.

Jesse Osborne pleaded guilty last year to two counts of murder for killing the boy at Townville Elementary School and shooting his father three times in the head so he could steal a pickup truck to get to his old school in September 2016.

A special hearing started Tuesday in Anderson County where a judge is deciding Osborne’s sentence. The now 17-year-old, who was 14 at the time of the slayings, faces anywhere from 30 years to life without parole.

Judge Lawton McIntosh will consider factors such as Osborne’s age and maturity at the time of the crime; his family and home environment; the circumstances of the crime; whether he knew his rights and could deal with police and prosecutors; and the possibility of rehabilitation.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning mandatory or arbitrary life sentences for teens who commit serious crimes requires the special hearing .

Prosecutors opened the hearing with more than 1,000 pages of Instagram and Skype messages, some discovered after a hearing where a judge decided he could be tried as an adult in February 2018.

Osborne’s online group, which called itself “Project Rainbow,” studied school shootings and encouraged each other to attack schools. They debated whether it was better to shoot at an elementary school or middle school, settling on the elementary school because there was no on-campus police officer.

Other videos had Osborne showing the handgun in his father’s nightstand that he would use in the killings and Osborne combing his hair three hours before the elementary school shooting, saying “got to have your hair straight when you’re going to shoot up a place. Got to look fabulous.”

Osborne kept up a Skype video call with members of the group open as he crashed his father’s truck into a fence at the elementary school he once attended and fired at children waiting to go back inside. Jacob Hall , 6, bled to death from a wound to his leg.

“I can’t stop hearing gunshots and the kids screaming and Jesse screaming. I’m freaking out,” one girl typed into the Skype chat according to testimony from Anderson County Sheriff’s detective McKindra Bibb who analyzed the cellphone.

Osborne also did internet searches on school shootings in places like Columbine, Colorado; Sandy Hook, Connecticut; and Virginia Tech. He kept on his cellphone a screen shot of a collage of some of the 20 first-graders killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, Bibb said.

Before the shooting, Osborne told the group on Skype “god, if I get over 70 kills, I’ll be satisfied,” Bibb testified.

Videos on Osborne’s phone included one taken by his mother of him shooting a semi-automatic rifle while family members watched and a video he took of him firing plastic pellets at dogs.

Osborne’s lawyer has not started his case yet. In earlier hearings, attorney Frank Eppes has suggested Osborne was bullied by other children and had a drunk, uncaring father as part of a poor home life.

Eppes has also said Osborne has done well in the structured environment of the juvenile prison, is remorseful about the killings and deserves a second chance even if he is a middle-aged man when he’s released from prison.

Osborne also pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted murder. Two other students and a teacher suffered minor injuries in the school shooting.


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP .

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