A young Twin Cities blues drummer was fatally stabbed while attending college in the Netherlands this week, sending waves of grief across a local music community, which is now coming together to help her family.
Erasmus University student Sarah Papenheim, 21, of Andover, was killed Wednesday in her Rotterdam apartment about a mile from campus, according to AD Rotterdams Dagblad, the city’s leading daily newspaper.
Witnesses heard arguing and screams in her third-floor room before the stabbing, police told the newspaper. Joel Schelling, Papenheim’s 23-year-old roommate from Rotterdam, was arrested after trying to flee at a rail station, police said.
Schelling appeared before a judge Friday and was ordered detained for a further two weeks while the investigation continues.
Papenheim was studying psychology with an emphasis in suicide, which took her 21-year-old brother’s life three years ago, her mother, Donee Odegard, told the Star Tribune. “My only two kids, and I’ve lost them both,” said Odegard, whose son died four days after she remarried.
Papenheim was a blues drumming prodigy of sorts, according to her mother, and had a gig booked with local musician Brian Naughton on Dec. 22 at the Schooner Tavern in Minneapolis.
“Brian was here last night talking to me,” Odegard said Thursday.
Naughton said that despite “Paps” being less than half his age, “she thought of drums and music the way that I did. She just got it, and was so talented and charismatic.”
Police caught up with Schelling after he got off a train with a large string-instrument case in Eindhoven, about 65 miles southeast of Rotterdam, police told the newspaper.
Police have yet to reveal a possible motive and are still trying to determine why Schelling chose Eindhoven as his destination.
Papenheim’s mother said police and her daughter’s boyfriend told her that Schelling in the “last couple of weeks was getting more and more angry.”
Odegard said her daughter arrived in Rotterdam in 2016 and became Schelling’s roommate about a year ago. She was excited to be living with another musician.
“They’d talk music all night,” she said. “They kinda clicked on that. Then as time went on, he’d get highs and lows.”
A few days before the killing, Odegard continued, “two people from mental health came over, but she shooed them away because she was afraid he would think she called them.”
She said she told her daughter, “ ‘Get out of there,’ but she wouldn’t listen to me.”
On the morning of the stabbing, Odegard said, Papenheim went to the apartment to retrieve some clothes for school and to take them back to her boyfriend’s place, “and that’s when we think it happened.”
Odegard said her daughter was a regular during weekly jam sessions at Shaw’s Bar in northeast Minneapolis.
“If it was Monday night, she was at Shaw’s,” she said.
Shaw’s server and bartender Shari Seymour said, “We all knew Sarah. I’m looking right now at the table where she and her mom always sat.”
Lanaya Baker, a bass player and former board member of the Minnesota Blues Society, said she has shared the stage with Papenheim and knew her as someone “who could hold her own” with many of the best musicians in the state.
Baker said Papenheim celebrated her birthday in March 2017 playing drums in Bonn, Germany, with the Twin Cities’ Bernard Allison Group.
“She was so courageous” to jump in with such a talent as Allison,” Baker said. “She hadn’t been drumming that often while being in college,” he said.
Stephen Kresko described his niece in a Facebook posting as “such a young, beautiful, intelligent, musically talented woman. We’ll miss you, but beat those drums in heaven, girl.”
Musicians are planning a concert to benefit Odegard and the rest of Papenheim’s family in an effort to offset some of the expenses that come with returning a loved one’s body from overseas. Odegard said it will cost her family $10,000 to $15,000 to bring her daughter home.
“We can’t afford it,” said Odegard, who added that she has a broken shoulder and is laid up from her job as a school bus driver.
Her husband and Papenheim’s stepfather is a semitrailer truck driver.
One of her many friends has started an online fundraising effort to help the family, and dozens of people had pledged thousands of dollars in the first few hours.
Papenheim and her family lived in the Twin Cities until second grade, when they moved to Redding, Calif., where she played drums in the Foothill High School jazz band.
After she graduated, they returned to Minnesota “for the music” scene when she was 18, Odegard said.
“She always wanted to travel abroad,” Odegard said of her adventurous daughter. “She could light up any room that she was in.”
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482