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American Student Sarah Papenheim Murdered by Roommate Joe Schelling

murder netherlands usa

Sarah Papenheim was just 19 years old when she moved from her hometown in Minnesota to Rotterdam in the Netherlands to study psychology at Erasmus University in Eindhoven.

American student Sarah Papenheim murdered by roommate Joe Schelling


Although she had a good life back home in the US, she was having a difficult time dealing with the death of her brother, who had taken his own life in 2015 when he was just 21 years old. Sarah never failed to post remembrance updates to her various social media accounts on the anniversary her his death and confessed to her mother that the reason she wanted to study psychology was to understand her brothers suicide. Sarah’s boyfriend helped her through the ordeal and supported her in every way he could, so when it was time for him to go back to the Netherlands, she went along with him.

By 2018 Sarah Papenheim was 21 years old and had lived, studied and worked in the Netherlands for two years. Although she enjoyed her life abroad, she was oftentimes overwhelmed with the pressures of being a full time student and holding down a job, but that didn’t stop her from enjoying the nightlife a place like Rotterdam had to offer. She often went to clubs and venues to watch bands perform and she herself was an accomplished drummer. Sarah proudly admitted to being a lover of all genres, she played blues drums and was a big part of the live music scene back home. While checking out the local music scene in Rotterdam she met a fellow music lover and double bass player named Joel Schelling. Schelling was a 23 years old and local. Although they were complete opposites (with Sarah being well liked and outgoing and Joel being withdrawn and lacking in the friends department) the two got along well and eventually moved into a shared apartment together at a student complex in Kerklaan Kralingen.

Things seemed to be going smoothly and the pair shared the apartment without issue for over a year and half until Schelling began acting strangely in late 2018. Sarah contacted a close friend back home as well as her family alerting them to Schelling’s mood swings and angry behavior which was allegedly getting more and more intense as time went by. When her family and friends expressed concern and urged her stay with her boyfriend, she convinced them that her roommate was not a threat and that he wouldn’t attempt to harm her because the two were close. “I’m his only friend” she told her worried mother.

American student Sarah Papenheim murdered by roommate Joe Schelling

(Sarah and her close friend Adam. Source)

Alarmingly she admitted to a close friend back home, Adam Pryor, that Joel had allegedly confessed to her that he “was going to kill 3 people” and had been displaying increasing signs of anger and agitation. Papenheim said she planned to inform the police. Adam Pryor said that he didn’t believe Sarah was in direct danger and that neither of them seemed to have any idea that the “people” Schelling had in his crosshair included her.

Despite her confidence that schelling didn’t have it out for her she decided to play it safe and as a precaution arranged to stay with her boyfriend who lived just a few doors down in the same student complex.

Sarah had a flight back home scheduled for the 22nd of December and decided to leave the apartment early and stay with her boyfriend until it was time to travel back to Minnesota to celebrate Christmas with her family. Sarah would never make it home for Christmas or to the blues concert she had been booked to play.

Just several days after Schelling confessed that he was planning to kill people, he stabbed Papenheim to death.

On the night of December 12th a witness reported hearing a commotion coming from the apartment Papenheim and Schelling rented together. The report of shouting and arguing was quickly relayed to an emergency services dispatcher. At around 12PM police arrived at the scene to find Papenheim bleeding to death at the residence and it appeared that she had been stabbed multiple times. Despite their best efforts they were unable to save her and she bled to death in the apartment.

Police began searching for the suspect, Joe Schelling, whom they detained and arrested at Eindhoven railway station. Video’s recorded on the phones of witnesses show armed police forcing the 23 year old to his knees at gunpoint. In pictures of the incident, Schelling, who is clad in a black winter jacket with wavy black hair pushed over to one side wears a blank expression on his face. Onlookers described him as eerily calm and emotionless. Police searched him as well as his double bass case before slapping on the cuffs and hauling him off to the police station. It is believed that he was attempting to travel back to his parents’ house in his hometown before he was apprehended. Following the news of his arrest those who were acquainted with him describe his as "strange" and "a bit of a loner."

American student Sarah Papenheim murdered by roommate Joe Schelling

(Joe Schelling. Source)

A gofundme campaign set up with the aim of raising $40,000 to transport Sarah’s body back to the US and alleviate the financial burden of funeral costs reached the goal within 3 days and exceeded the original amount by thousands of dollars. To those who knew her, Sarah was an angel with a smile that could light up a room. Friends, family and employers expressed shock and despair at the tragic murder of the 21 year old student who was cruelly ripped away from the world at just 21 years of age.

 Sarah’s mother, who has now lost both of her children, said in an interview that she has cried so much that she has ran out of tears and is now filled with anger.

 Sources: [X] [X] [X] [X] [X


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