Zach Osborne is one of seven students who will be receiving scholarships for inmates on death row. The prisoners run a bimonthly publication called
"Compassion", which is run by the Roman Catholic Church. The inmates want to help Zach pursue his dream of becoming an officer and to help prevent
GREENSBORO, North Carolina (AP) -- A college student whose younger sister was murdered more than a decade ago was presented Tuesday with a
scholarship from an unlikely source -- death row inmates from around the country.
Zach Osborne was only 6 years old, and his sister, Natalie, was 4 when she was raped and murdered in 1992. Their mother's boyfriend, Jeff Kandies, is
on North Carolina's death row for the crime.
On Tuesday, Osborne, 19, received a $5,000 college scholarship from the group of inmates who solicited money through their bimonthly publication
"Compassion." Including Osborne's grant, they have given out seven scholarships worth about $27,000.
"We would like to support him in realizing his dream of becoming an officer of the law and finding a way to prevent future violence," wrote Dennis
Skillicorn, a death row inmate in Missouri who is the newsletter's editor, in the May issue. "Our intent is genuine."
Osborne is studying at East Carolina University, where he will be a sophomore this fall. His father and grandparents attended Tuesday's scholarship
ceremony along with a half brother and half sister who are the children of Kandies and Osborne's mother, who did not attend. The family would not
identify the children but said they remain close to Osborne's family.
Stephen Dear, executive director of the Carrboro-based People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, presented the scholarship. The death of his sister
will help Osborne empathize with crime victims, Dear said.
"He has a wisdom beyond his years, gained the hardest way -- a wisdom that victims need healing and that victims can come to forgive even those who
have caused the greatest pain," Dear said before the ceremony. "For a police officer to have that kind of view is a great gift to the community and
to the police force."
Osborne agreed that the memory of the murder will make him a better officer, saying it will "motivate me more to solve cases or to put more effort in
them. It will motivate me to try to prevent events like what happened to my family from happening to others."
Death row prisoners contribute artwork, essays and poetry to "Compassion," a project of the Roman Catholic Church's peace and justice committee. It
carries no accounts on individual cases or complaints about prison life, focusing instead on what it calls the "positive contributions of death row
Money from subscriptions pays for publishing and funds the scholarships. To win his, Osborne wrote an essay about the crime and the effect it had on
him and his family.
"Natalie's death has haunted my family since the day she was found," he wrote. "After many long years of wasted fury, I have finally been able to
forgive Jeff for his crime against my family."
Among the others who have received a scholarship is Brandon Biggs, whose father was hit by a car in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2001. His father was stuck
in the windshield, and left to die despite his pleas for help.
Kandies is moving closer to an execution date, said Matt Stiegler, an attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham. He has no more
legal challenges in state court and one pending with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Osborne said that even though he's forgiven Kandies, execution is only fair.
"Justice has to be served," he said. "He's committed a crime, and that was decided to be the sentence."
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I think this was a great idea. It shows people that inmates really do care and that they do have a heart. It also helps to payback society for the
crimes that they have committed.