Lincoln County residents united at the courthouse in Lincolnton on Friday to remember the life of a woman allegedly killed late last month by her estranged husband.
Amy’s House-Lincoln County’s Coalition Against Domestic Violence hosted the remembrance ceremony, which was attended by a number of community members who never knew homicide victim Tara Osburn, 39, but felt it necessary to honor her memory, and also her three children, including one daughter who is a student at East Lincoln High School.
The victim, a former operating room employee at Carolinas Medical Center-Pineville, was shot to death by Anthony Osburn, police said, on March 27.
Following hours of negotiations with the suspect, who hid inside his Lincolnton apartment following the murder, Lincoln County Sheriff’s SWAT officers opened fire on him, killing him, as he eventually exited the residence shooting at law enforcement, police said.
Tara Osburn is the eighth person in Lincoln County since 2002 to lose life from domestic violence.
Amy’s House Board Member Amy Watershouser read the names of each of the victims for Friday’s crowd, pausing briefly as she recited the name of her own father, who was killed at the hands of her ex-husband, she said.
She used her personal tragedy to relate to Tara Osburn’s children, now orphans after losing both their mother and father.
Watershouser not only reminded them of the community’s ongoing love and support for them but also urged them to carry on in honor of their mother.
“My heart goes out to the kids,” Watershouser said, “because you’re left here with questions…Live your life for your mom.”
In addition to a time of prayer and encouraging speech from local pastor, Rev. Ivan Davis, the crowd lit candles and participated in a moment of silence.
They also heard moving musical pieces throughout the event from UMAR Arts Counselor and Reverend, Amy Vaughn, along with East Lincoln Track Coach Melvin Morrison, coach of one of Tara Osburn’s children, he said.
Morrison played two different trumpet solos including the hit song “You Raise Me Up.”
Perhaps the most moving moment of the ceremony was a purple balloon release carried out by the victim’s children as a symbol of their mother’s ongoing legacy and a word portrait of the Lincolnton woman illustrated by family friend Roberta Wilson.
“She always had a smile on her face, even when she had nothing to smile about,” Wilson said of Tara Osburn.
Amy’s House Director Vicky Lingerfelt encouraged local individuals suffering at the hands of an abuser to call the facility’s 24-hour hotline for help.
While the shelter houses up to 23 people, and currently caters to seven, including three children, the organization also assists in many other ways besides providing a safe haven.
For those who don’t necessarily need shelter, Lingerfelt said Amy’s House also aids victims with legal services and financial assistance.
The nonprofit additionally maintains a thrift store for families needing discounted items.
Called Amy’s Closet, the facility uses all funds raised to support Amy’s House and also offers a variety of material and literature on domestic violence.
In early May, the store will celebrate its one-year anniversary, according to Manager and Board Member Shasta Steele.
Like Watershouser, Steels knows all-too-well the mental, physical and emotional hurt caused by domestic abuse because more than 40 years ago, she, too, was a victim.
She hopes to use her experience to help others dealing with the same situation.
After two years of being in a toxic relationship, Steele was able to flee her home. She remembers vividly the day she left.
“I knew if I went back, I wouldn’t survive,” she said.
Steele noted how, at the time, the topic was considered taboo, and outside help proved less prevalent.
“It (domestic violence) was not talked about,” Steele said. “I couldn’t get help from police.”
Amy’s House has been a part of the Lincoln County community since 1995 when Lingerfelt and a group of private citizens concerned about not having a local shelter for domestic violence abuse victims united to make a change.
“We knew there was a high rate of domestic violence in Lincoln County,” Lingerfelt said, “and had no facility.”
Instead, individuals were ushered out-of-county for aid.
With a limited annual budget of between $250,000 and $275,000, Amy’s House relies heavily on grants and donations to operate each year.
Unlike a number of domestic violence shelters throughout the state, the local nonprofit is not county funded and, over the years, one of the facility’s largest financial supporters has been United Way, Lingerfelt said.
The nonprofit director also added that the organization is not strictly for women and children but also men, who are given shelter at a separate area location.
Since opening its doors nearly two decades ago, Amy’s House has catered to thousands of domestic violence victims.
Last year alone, the facility assisted 315 women, 279 children and seven men, Lingerfelt said.
Still to this day, Watershouser noted many in the community remain ignorant of domestic violence statistics and are unaware of its true nature, which can be physical, mental and emotional.
“Sometimes control and manipulation are worse,” she said. “A lot of people hide it because they are embarrassed or scared of the abuser. Don’t be ashamed of what’s going on.”
Domestic violence victims needing assistance can contact Amy’s House by calling (704) 736-1224.