CBSN

Death Row Scholarship

If you have kids, no matter what age they are, you're probably already worrying about how to pay for college. The good news is there are thousands of scholarships out there, some more unusual than others.

The Early Show correspondent Tracy Smith has the story of one unique scholarship and the remarkable young man who received it.

On a quiet day in High Point, N.C., a young man is getting a glimpse into his future. Officer David Inthisane and 19-year-old Zach Osborne are riding a squad car together because Osborne wants to be a cop for many reasons.

Osborne says, "I wanted to have a job that was action packed."

Another reason, but not the least, is his sister.

He says, "My sister was murdered when she was 4 years old."

Natalie Lynne Osborne disappeared from her room 13 years ago.

Smiling, he says when he looks at a picture with his sister, "I think happiness! That's like the only picture I have of us together."

Osborne was 6 at the time, but remembers it like it was yesterday.

"I remember the night she was taken," he says, "I was supposed to go to her room and tell her it was time for dinner. And she wasn't there. And the screen door, sliding door was open."

Osborne wrote about what happened next in an essay.

Reading it, he says, "They found her dead. Hidden in a closet. Wearing nothing but her underwear. And stuffed in a black trash bag."

Natalie had been raped, beaten and killed. The man who did it is Jeff Kandies, who was the boyfriend of Osborne's mother at the time.

Osborne says, "He took care of us; helped take care of us for about a year. I just couldn't - that could happen, you know?"

For raping and murdering Natalie, Kandies was sent to North Carolina's death row.

Osborne says he was full of anger. "I thought it was so unfair for her to die so young," he says.

But he ultimately forgave his sister's killer and turned his anger into motivation to go to college and become a police officer.

Osborne says, "I want to try to make the community a safer place as well as prevent these tragedies from happening to other families."

Reading his essay, he says, "Now, I am 19 years old and still wish that I had a sister to talk to, have fun with, love and protect. After many long years of wasted fury, I have finally been able to forgive Jeff for his crime against my family."

He needed money, so he entered his essay about Natalie in a scholarship contest held by the last people he'd ever expect to turn to for help.

Dennis Skillicorn is one of the scholarship's sponsors and a murderer – currently residing on death row.

Skillicorn says, "We didn't give him the money to get a favorable opinion about capital punishment; we simply gave him the money because it's the right thing to do."

Skillicorn and other death row inmates use the profits from their magazine, "Compassion," to award scholarships to crime victims' families. In four years, they've given away $21,000 to people like Osborne.

Skillicorn says, "What really impressed me was that he was able to overcome those hurdles and those terrible memories in his path, and he was able to get over those hurdles and go on to something more positive in his life."

On June 7, Zach Osborne got $5,000 from the men on death row.

Asked if he feels conflicted about taking money from the same sort of people who killed his sister, Osborne says, "At first, I didn't want to take the money. But I realized that this is the first good thing to come from my sister's death. And I should take it on her behalf."

And now Osborne is on his way to his ultimate goal, his sister Natalie never far from his mind.

When people read about him, he wants them to walk away knowing, "that I'm a pretty mature 19-year-old."

He hopes others learn from his story that "they can learn the power to forgive."

The scholarship has not changed his mind about one thing: He still believes his sister's killer should be put to death.