DEERFIELD TWP. — Amanda Borsos’ behavior was normal at her workplace minutes before the teenager was shot and killed on her 17th birthday, a week after breaking up with her boyfriend of a few months.
But the actions of Troy Penn, 18, were anything but normal, friends and school officials said Thursday, a day after he killed Borsos with a single shotgun blast to her torso and then killed himself using the same weapon.
Borsos, who would have been a senior at Little Miami High School, was shot at close range at the Four Paws Pet Care and Kennel, 9520 Landen Drive, Warren County sheriff’s deputies said.
She was in a fenced-in area on the side of the business used for dog exercise, deputies said.
After the shooting, Penn, a Kings High School senior, he made frantic phone calls to his mother and father, telling them about the incident. He barricaded himself inside his family’s townhouse at 8263 Rollinghitch Court, less than a mile from the kennel.
Police communications show his two siblings were home at the time and his brother, a Marine, tried to wrestle the shotgun from Penn.
Penn apparently used a hanger to pull the shotgun’s trigger to shoot himself in the chest, according to a 911 transcript. The transcript also noted that he had the shotgun “rigged to the curtains so if the curtain moved, the gun will fire.”
It’s not clear where Penn got the shotgun. Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims said Thursday his office was not ready to release details.
Chief Deputy John Newsom said there was “speculation” that Penn was bitter after Borsos had recently ended their relationship, which he said may have led to the shooting.
Dating violence is more prevalent than many people realize, according to Megan Crouch, prevention education coordinator for the Violence Free Coalition of Warren County. Nationally, 10 percent of teens report having been threatened by their boyfriend or girlfriend with a knife or gun. In Warren County, 6 percent reported such a threat, according to a recent Ohio Youth Survey.
“A lot of time we overlook that teens’ relationships can be just as violent as adult ones,” said Crouch, who delivers weeklong Safe Dates program to 3,000 to 3,500 middle school and high school students every year.
Robert Ashe, Borsos’ manager at the kennel, described her as “a really sweet girl.” He said he believed Borsos was working to save up for college. “She was a hard worker,” said Ashe, who noted he never saw Penn there.
The teens had only been dating a few months, and broke up a week ago, said Cassie Smith, 15, whose family is friends with the Penn family. She said everyone is in shock the popular skateboarder shot and killed the “sweet” girl and took his own life.
“It’s horrible,” Smith said. “No one could see Troy doing this and they were both such good people and I can’t even think of a word to describe what this is like.”
The only indication something might have been amiss was that Penn was recently posting messages on Facebook that he loved Borsos, Smith said.
“People think Troy was a bad person for what he did,” she said. “You can’t judge a person by one mistake, no matter how big it is.”
An outpouring of sympathy for Borsos and Penn appeared on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, where people voiced utter disbelief and condolences for the families of both Warren County teenagers.
On one for Borsos, Penn’s sister posted this: “Words can’t describe the pain I feel for your family. There is no apologizing for what my brother has done. You will always be in my heart and I will never forget the good times we had.”
Another posting on Facebook described how Penn felt about his former girlfriend: “You made him happy and that’s all that he cared about. I can’t say sorry enough ... this is not what you or he deserved.”
Those strong feelings and the breakup could have pushed Penn over the edge, said Dr. Steve Edwards, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with the Lindner Center of HOPE in Mason, who said the adolescent brain is still developing, especially the frontal lobe that controls judgment and impulse control.
“With adolescents it can be a lot worse, they magnify it even more,” he said.
The fact Penn used a shotgun to kill himself, Edwards said, “that tells me he was pretty determined, he didn’t see any way out, he was pretty hopeless.”
Counselors at both schools were available Thursday and Little Miami spokeswoman Lisa Knodel said officials there are scheduling a day next week when students can meet with mental health counselors. Some students gathered at the school Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil, according to Knodel.
“Amanda was a very polite, quiet young lady who cared for her family and others,” said Brian Martin, former principal of Little Miami High School.
For her senior year, Borsos had scheduled classes in journalism, sculpture, mixed media, and advanced drawing. She also had a passion for animals. As a freshman, she participated in cheerleading. Her sister, Sara, graduated from Little Miami in 2010.
“This is such a tragic loss for the Borsos family, our students, teachers and community,” said interim Superintendent Greg Power. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of both of these students.”
A relative at Penn’s home said family members were not ready to speak publicly about him.
Sometimes, it takes news of a tragedy for people to realize that teen dating violence is real, said Sharon Richardson, director of the Violence Free Coalition of Warren County.
Some of the signs to look for include extreme jealousy, trying to isolate a dating partner from his or her friends and family, and someone who jumps into a relationship too quickly, Crouch said.
“It’s very, very common for people to send multiple text messages a day,” she said. “At first it seems like ... your boyfriend or girlfriend really cares about you a lot, but in reality they’re asking you where you’re at or who you’re with.”
Crouch and Richardson suggest that parents talk to their child and check their Facebook page posts and text messages.
Visitation for Borsos will be 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday followed immediately by the funeral at the Vale-Hoskins Funeral Home, 513 West Pike St., Morrow. Donations are suggested to the Amanda Borsos Memorial Fund, through any LCNB National Bank branch.
A vigil for Penn is planned for Sunday, Smith said, but the funeral will be private.
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.