18 years on death row: Background of a killer

(Greenwood) November 14, 2006 -  We're continuing our look back at one the state's most notorious crimes. Before Columbine, Wisconsin and the Amish school house shootings, there was Greenwood, South Carolina.

Jamie Wilson has been on death row for 18 years. While many want him dead, others say Wilson is a victim, too.

They say he's a victim of his mental illness.

Downtown Greenwood, South Carolina, is a quaint southern city with a wound just below the surface. It's a crime so disturbing, few will discuss it publicly, even 18 years later.

"I'd like to say I'm sorry to the whole community. To everyone, to all the children at the school. Especially the children at the school and what they endured. I'm so sorry, too," said Shirley Bordner. Her son is on death row.

Jamie Wilson is responsible for one of the first deadly school shootings in the country. It happened September 26, 1988.

Jamie Wilson was 19 and had no ties to the school. A total stranger, he walked in to Oakland Elementary and started firing. In all, he shot 11 people. Two eight-year-old girls died.

A judge ruled that Jamie Wilson was mentally ill, so sick he couldn't control his actions. The judge sentenced Wilson to 175 years in prison and death.

"He knew that he had a problem," said Shirley.

Wilson had a troubled past, almost from the start. Ridiculed for being fat and dressing funny, his own father threatened to kill him.

"His dad would get angry with him and curse him - sometimes threaten him with guns."

He became aggressive, violent, and was in and out of psychiatric centers starting at age 14.

"I remember one time I had brought him home from the hospital, he got out of the car and blackened my eye."

His mother says Jamie was hospitalized until his insurance ran out.

Said Jamie, "At 19 my daddy's insurance didn't cover me no more and I couldn't go into the hospital again."

"When his insurance expired on his birthday," said Jamie's mother, "he was discharged from the hospital."

Reporter: "And you wanted to be in the hospital?"
Jamie: "Yeah!"
Reporter: "Why'd you want to go to the hospital, Jamie?"
Jamie: "So I wouldn't do a crime."
Reporter: "So you thought you'd do a crime if you weren't in the hospital?"
Jamie: "Yeah."

Jamie Wilson walked into Oakland just months after he stopped receiving treatment. He would ultimately be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

"Jamie has no ability to control himself," said Bud, a fellow death row inmate. "When I got there, Jamie was locked down in a holding cell where they had the cameras and all on him, and he hadn't had a shower in about a year. He smelled bad. They had his water cut off -- toilet was all stopped up, mess all over the wall. Feces."

"If you're crazy, you're crazy, but you still killed somebody," says Matt, who was in first grade back then. Brandi McDaniel and Leah Holmes were third graders.

Brandi, "He came in there. He invaded our space that day. He did that wrong to all of us, yet he's still here."

Matt's mom, "It should be done. Jamie Wilson should have been put to death...you know, 18 years ago. When he was found guilty."

Brandi, "He made those choices that day whether in his right mind or not. There was choices made -- there was actions done. There's a price to pay."

A number of people affected by Jamie's crime say they want to put Jamie Wilson behind them for good, not only for themselves, but for the little girls who died.

Matt, "I have to say what's fair to one is fair for everybody whether you're crazy or not. If he killed somebody he should be punished."

Brandi, "It's not going to bring closure to their families but it would help."

But Shirley still hopes for a change of heart in those families and students, "I hope some how or another they'll find forgiveness for my son and I hope they'll find some inner healing by forgiving him."

Leah, one of the students who was shot, says she has forgiven, "I don't think he should be let on the streets. He's got some serious issues and I think those issues need to be dealt with. I mean, he's a very troubled person, but I don't think that is a reason to kill him."

"Part of me feels like we've failed him as a society by not recognizing that and really dealing with the problem before he got that far."

Question: "Jamie, do you think you'll get out of here?"
Answer: "No."
Question: "What do you think is going to happen?"
Answer: "I'll be executed."
Question: "You think you will be."
Answer: "Yeah."
Question: "Do you want to get out of here?"
Answer: "No."
Question: "You want to stay here?"
Answer: "Yeah."
Question: "Do you want to be executed?"
Answer: "No."
Question: "You just want to stay here."
Answer: "Yeah."
Question: "Why do you want to stay here?"
Answer: "So I can live instead of being executed."

Reported by Kara Gormley

Posted 6:11pm by Chantelle Janelle