Walhalla, SC--On Friday, March 1, 2019, Matthew Jason Chappell pled guilty before the Honorable R. Scott Sprouse to Great Bodily Injury to a Child and no contest to Voluntary Manslaughter.  Judge Sprouse imposed a total sentence of 40 years.  Mr. Chappell will not be eligible for parole. 

 On November 21, 2017, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Matthew Chappell’s residence upon report of a three-year-old child that had been injured.  At the time of injury, the child was alone in the home with Mr. Chappell.  The child suffered bi-lateral skull fractures that were ruled by medical professionals to be non-accidental in nature.  When questioned by law enforcement, Chappell asserted that he had been playing with the child when he pushed her and she fell backwards, hitting her head, rendering her unconscious.  Mr. Chappell waited a significant period of time and attempted to clean up evidence of blood in the home before seeking aid for the child.  

Upon further investigation, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office discovered that the injured child’s sister, 22-month-old Gwynne Hess, had died in the very same home on June 9, 2017.  At the time, her death had been ruled accidental in nature.  The investigation into Gwynne Hess’ death was re-opened.  It was discovered, again, that Gwynne was alone in the home with Mr. Chappell at the time of her alleged accidental choking.  Upon further questioning, Mr. Chappell confessed that he had picked up Gwynne and dropped her on the floor causing her to choke.  Based on this information, the decision was made to exhume the remains of Gwynne Hess for autopsy.  The medical examiner found massive fractures to the side and back of Gwynne’s head.  He further opined that the amount of force to cause these injuries to Gwynne’s skull would be the equivalent of falling off a three-story building. 

          “Special thanks for the hard work of Sergeant Tim Rice of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.  Sergeant Rice’s diligence during his investigation of the surviving child’s injuries ultimately uncovered that Gwynne Hess’ death was not an accident and ensured Mr. Chappell would be held accountable for all of his actions.” stated Solicitor David Wagner.   “Judge Sprouse’s sentence ensures Matthew Chappell will serve a large part, if not the entirety, of the rest of his life in prison.”

February 28, 2019

Walhalla, SC—Yesterday, an Oconee County jury found Michael Lee Trotter guilty on all counts following a one-day trial. The State was represented by Assistant Solicitor Jason Alderman. The Honorable Scott Sprouse sentenced Trotter to 5 years for Possession of Tools Capable of Being Used in a Crime; 10 years for Grand Larceny (enhanced due to prior convictions); 10 years for Petit Larceny (also enhanced); and 15 years for Burglary 2nd Degree, Violent, with all sentences to be served concurrently. Although the defendant told the judge that he had been a drug addict his entire adult life, the Judge remarked that he fashioned the sentence to punish him but to allow him to have a life after prison, if he chose to. 

On or between November 27th and 28th of 2017, two trailers were taken from a location on Shiloh Road. Officers responding to the scene spoke to the victim who gave a description of the two trailers and showed the officers the scene of the theft and where the chain used to secure the trailers had been cut. While at the scene of the trailer theft, the officers received a call of shots fired at another location, later found to be the home of the defendant. During the investigation of this incident, a witness stated that he had seen trailers being pulled on to vacant property next door to the defendant’s home. Trotter was found on that property shortly thereafter, although the property was clearly marked with “No Trespassing” signs. The stolen trailers were also located there as well as tools used to cut the locks on the property adjacent to the defendant’s home and also cut the chain securing the trailers at the original incident location. Trotter was taken into custody for trespassing. Warrants were later served for the other charges. 

Following the sentencing, Solicitor David Wagner stated, “Michael Trotter has been in and out of prison for many years because of drugs and multiple burglaries. I appreciate the fact that he was sentenced to the maximum on each of these charges due to his long criminal history and want to thank the jurors, the Judge and law enforcement for helping to make our community a safer place.”

December 12, 2018

(Anderson, SC). Earlier today at the Anderson County Courthouse Jesse
Dewitt Osborne pled guilty to two counts of Murder and three counts of
Attempted Murder before Judge Lawton McIntosh for killing his father and going on a shooting spree at Townville Elementary School on September 28, 2016, where he killed first grader Jacob Hall and injured two other first grade students and a teacher. Osborne’s sentencing will take place after a hearing later this spring.


A hearing prior to sentencing Osborne is required due to the State seeking a sentence of Life without Parole for the crimes committed by Osborne since he was under 17 years old at the time he committed these offenses. The Supreme Court of the United States held in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012), that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentencing scheme that mandates a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders without affording the Court the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances of youth. This means that before a life without parole sentence is imposed upon a juvenile offender, he must receive an individualized hearing where the mitigating qualities of youth are fully considered, including:


(1) the chronological age of the offender and the “hallmark features of
youth”, including immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate the risks and consequence of conduct;


(2) the family and home life/environment of the offender;


(3) the circumstances of the homicide offense, including the offender's
participation or role and how “familial and peer pressures” may have
affected him;


(4) the “incompetencies associated with youth,” such as the offender's
inability to deal with police officers or prosecutors or assist his own
attorneys; and 

(5) the possibility of rehabilitation.


The South Carolina Supreme Court extended the Miller holding in Aiken v. Byars, 410 S.C. 534, 754 S.E.2d 508 (2014), to cover nonmandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole and also held that this applies retroactively to cases pending on collateral review.


Following the guilty plea entered by Osborne, Solicitor Wagner said: “The State will not be entering into any plea deals with Jesse Osborne. I am seeking the maximum sentence in this case, life without parole, which is the appropriate sentence for the murder of six-year-old Jacob Hall, and the attempted murders of his classmates and teachers.”


The minimum sentence Osborne now faces is 30 years, with the maximum, which is being sought by Solicitor David R. Wagner of the Tenth Judicial Circuit, being life without the possibility of parole.

On Monday, October 15, 2018, Jonathan Duncan pled guilty before the Honorable R. Scott Sprouse to Attempted Murder, Domestic Violence 2nd Degree, and Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime. Judge Sprouse imposed a sentence of 27 years. Mr. Duncan will not be eligible for parole. 

Duncan’s charges stemmed from a brutal attack on his wife Margaret Duncan and a mutual acquaintance, Justin Stasney, on June 6, 2016. The parties were spending time together when Duncan became enraged with his wife and believed she was going to leave him for Mr. Stasney. He struck her multiple times and began to choke her. At this point, Mr. Stasney stepped in to aid in Ms. Duncan’s defense. The Defendant subsequently attacked Mr. Stasney and he suffered near fatal knife wounds to his hands, back, and neck. Mr. Stasney was also stabbed in the face and, ultimately, lost one eye. 

          “Special thanks for the hard work of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office in this case. Their quick response to the scene of this crime very likely saved the life of Mr. Stasney” stated Solicitor David Wagner.   “The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Judge Sprouse’s sentence sends a strong message that domestic related, violent incidents such as this will not be tolerated in our community.”