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Osbornes threatened in letter
Jan 07, 2005 12:00 am
A mysterious letter to the Wilson County Jail has prompted officials to request a couple charged in a high-profile child abuse case be moved to another facility.
The letter contained not only implied threats toward James Osborne III, 42, and Christie Osborne, 28, but also comments directed toward "certain public officials," Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe said.
Though the sheriff would not reveal the contents of the letter he said it is under investigation by his department. He also has formally asked the court to allow the couple to be moved to another jail.
"I'm asking that they be moved to another facility for safekeeping," Ashe said.
The Osbornes were arrested on child neglect charges in September when Lebanon police allegedly found their 15-year-old son being kept under lock and chain while his weight dwindled to only 50 pounds.
The case generated considerable publicity in the area with a juvenile court judge imposing a gag order on those involved in a custody hearing for the youth and three siblings, all of whom are now believed to be in the state Department of Children's Services' custody.
Publicity was heightened when questions arose about how DCS handled the case. Officials of the agency have defended their actions, saying they could substantiate no claims of abuse against the teen during investigations of the home prior to the couple's arrest.
Ashe refused to identify which public officials the remarks seemed directed toward, calling the letter "kind of convoluted."
"It makes references to the case and certain people more by circumstance than by name," he said. "Nobody is mentioned by name, but it's clear when you read it what they're talking about."
Although the letter included a name and return address investigators consider it anonymous, he said.
"There's no doubt in anybody's mind, I don't think, that the name and address are going to turn out to be no good," he said.
He said a copy of the letter has already been forwarded to the district attorney's office along with a formal request the couple be housed elsewhere.
The letter comes on top of "constant innuendoes, remarks and comments" made by other inmates about the couple, Ashe said.
"We knew they had problems already just from what we've already heard said to them by the other prisoners," the sheriff said. "We've done our best to keep them absolutely isolated from the general population just for their own safety."
Though he noted threats against child abuse suspects from other inmates behind bars "are not uncommon at all," overcrowding within the jail combined with a staffing shortage has made guarding the couple even more of a challenge for jailers.
"They're already in an overcrowded, understaffed facility and they've already put a burden on our correctional officers," Ashe said. "When you put this letter on top of all that, I think it only makes sense to see if they can be moved to another facility.
The couple has remained in custody in lieu of bond since being arrested.
At the time they were taken into custody Lebanon police said James Osborne gave investigators a statement in which he basically admitted the abuse, describing how the youth was kept chained to a bed each day while the couple was at work.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.