Former teacher, students remember homicide victim as fun, creative student

Joshua Osbourne remembered teaching, helping Amber Fraaken for years

By Claire Powell |

Published 11/24 2015 05:59PM

Updated 11/24 2015 06:01PM

DES MOINES- Inside of Hoyt Middle School, Josh Osbourne is usually the fun and carefree behavior coach and teacher. However, on Tuesday, Osbourne’s goofy smile wasn’t quite the same knowing 16-year-old Amber Fraaken, his former student, was never going to walk through his doors again.

"When someone says “Amber left you a note,” I knew which Amber they meant. When I got a text saying, “Amber is dead. Did you hear?” I knew exactly what Amber they were talking about," said Osbourne.

Amber Fraaken and her 42-year-old mother Amy were both killed in their home during a domestic dispute on Hull Avenue on Sunday night. Police say Amber's father and Amy's husband, Barney Fraaken, is in custody recovering in a local hospital where he's expected to survive. He'll face charges as soon as he's released. 

Osbourne was Fraaken’s teacher for all three years during middle school.  Even when she moved onto high school at Central Campus’ Alternative Program, she would stop to see him and other teachers who had helped her. Amber's house was only four blocks away from the school.

"She’d frequently stop by and tell us how things were going. She’d always have magic tricks to show me with cards or coins or something,” said Osbourne.

Osbourne says he helped Amber transition during her move from Florida to Iowa, making new friends and even with issues at home, whatever they were. He said there were many times when Amber’s parents, Amy and Barney, would come in and meet with him. He said there were never any tell-tale signs that would point to the tragic double homicide.

"Amber loved her father. She loved Barney,” he said. “You could tell that she loved her mom very much.”

Osbourne sent out tweets via Twitter Monday night saying, "Amber Fraaken, a former student of mine, was murdered last night by her father....I'm not taking it well. That's all I have to say about that."

Osbourne described Amber as somewhat of a tomboy and a creative writer who loved skate boarding and super heroes. Even though Amber was a girl in middle school who would argue with her mother, the two shared an unconditional love.

Osbourne added Amy, Amber’s mother, had the same fun personality as Amber. She was studying to be a preschool teacher and had worked hard to make Amber happy. Amy’s dream was to take Amber to visit her family in Florida, although she was never able to afford it.

"She cared for amber so much. Amber was her world.”

Osbourne says these circumstances are what make being a teacher so tough.

"To have this happen is pretty tough to deal with. All those long conversations about what she wants when she gets older, visiting her family in Florida or just trying to convince her you’ve got a greater life than what you’ve got in front of you. Then this happens, for no reason, with no warning. There’s no signs something like this is going to happen necessarily. It just does,” said Osbourne.

Just like the photos of his current students hanging on his wall, he has photos of Amber too. It’s photos that he’ll keep closer than most.

"She had a lot going for herself. I just think of all the positive impact she had, not just on my life, but her friends, other teachers and people in our building. She had positive impact. We knew Amber was bound for something better and that she'd make it.”

Osbourne said Hoyt Middle School students and staff are working on a tribute for Amber and Amy to be up in the next couple of days.

Des Moines Public Schools said grief counselors were available for students and staff all day Monday. The staff also has the ability to access more counseling through their current health insurance provided by the school.


Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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