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SALT LAKE CITY -- Hundreds of handmade, crocheted hats are now in the hands of the students, faculty and staff at Oquirrh Hills Elementary School, courtesy of an unexpected crafter.
The hands that crocheted the 540 hats belong to convicted murderer Robert E. Jones. Principal Vicki Ricketts said the students were thrilled just the same.
"It was just so exciting. I mean the kids were just so excited," she said about the assembly where the hats were unveiled on Friday. "It brought tears to most of our eyes because the kids were so pleased and excited and immediately tried the hats on."
Ricketts said Jones began crocheting the hats around Christmas of last year. A prison volunteer, Viki Hatton, reached out to a school employee, who confirmed Oquirrh Hills would be interested in accepting his donation.
"When he was very young, he got into some trouble and he took a young man's life," Ricketts said. "He spent the whole year crocheting the hats. He earned the money at 40 cents an hour to buy the yarn. So the children knew all of that."
Jones donated the hats in the name of his victim, Kim Chapman, as a way to do restitution. It's one of more than two dozen similar service projects he's done since his conviction in 1983.
Ricketts explained that most of the children would be considered needy, and very much appreciate his gift.
"We live in a fairly low income area. We have about 85 percent or so [on] free and reduced lunch," Ricketts said. "We knew that the students would love to have them."