GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A college student whose younger sister was murdered more than a decade ago was presented yesterday 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.
Yesterday, Osborne, 19, received a $5,000 college scholarship from a group of inmates who solicited money through their bimonthly publication ''Compassion." Including Osborne's grant, the group has 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.
Stephen Dear, executive director of the Carrboro, N.C.-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.
Osborne said that the memory of the murder will make him a better officer, saying 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 inmates."
Money from subscriptions pays for publishing and funds the scholarships.
Kandies is moving closer to an execution date, said Matt Stiegler, an attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, N.C. He has no more legal challenges in state court and one pending with the US Supreme Court.
''Justice has to be served," Osborne said.