Dutch government doing all it can to support family of slain Twin Cities blues musician

December 17, 2018

A Dutch government diplomat stationed in Minneapolis said his country is sparing no effort in making sure that the Twin Cities family has all the help it needs to retrieve the body of their 21-year-old loved one, a blues musician allegedly killed by her roommate in the European city where she was going to college.

The mother of Sarah Papenheim, of Andover, is in the Netherlands to claim the body and learn as much as she can about her daughters stabbing death Wednesday in a student residence about a mile from Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

Back in Minnesota, friends and fellow musicians have pulled together a special session at 7 p.m. Monday night at Shaws bar in northeast Minneapolis that will be renamed the Sarah Papenheim Cocktail Jam.

The mission of the gathering where Papenheim routinely jammed on Monday nights behind the drum kit is part healing and part support for a family that is facing tens of thousands of dollars in expenses to cover travel, funeral expenses and other needs.

Jailed in the psychology students death is her roommate, 23-year-old Joel Schelling, of Rotterdam. Schelling appeared in court Friday and was ordered held for another 14 days ahead of formal charges being filed as police continue collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.

Papenheims mother, Donee Odegard, was picked up at the airport Friday by university officials and was expected back in the Twin Cities on Wednesday, hopefully, with her daughter, said Minneapolis-based Dutch Consul Marc Al.

Al said he told Odegard that he is her local Dutch resource and am here if you need me. If they need a Dutch speaker or help to make contact with a [Dutch] government agency ... that sometimes helps a little bit.

We want to make them realize they are not alone, he said.

While in Rotterdam, Odegard will have the assistance of a crime victim coordinator from the police department, Al said.

Al, an attorney who works for a Minneapolis law firm and has carried out his diplomatic duties on a volunteer basis for more than 15 years, said that the criminal proceedings for Schelling will be similar to what would happen in the United States, but there also are some substantive differences.

In the United States a suspect who is jailed for a crime must generally be charged within a couple of days or be released as the investigation continues. In the Netherlands, Al said, prosecutors routinely have up to 14 days and can be given more time while their suspect remains locked up.

After 14 days, Schelling will go back before a judge and either be let go as investigators build their case or be returned to jail. As for using a bail system to ensure a suspect doesnt flee upon release, Al said his country relies less on a monetary system and more a matter of your own recognizance and being a flight risk.

Should there be a trial, the case is heard by a three-judge panel, and there is no jury system in the Netherlands. If convicted, life in prison in the maximum sentence. In the United States, punishment upon conviction varies from state to state. While some states impose the death penalty, life in prison is the stiffest punishment in Minnesota, and thats only for a first-degree murder conviction.

In 2017, the number of people who were victims of murder or manslaughter in the Netherlands increased sharply. There were 158 killed last year in the nation of 16 million, according to the national government. There were 108 killings there in 2016.

The number of foreigners killed also increased, jumping to 26 last year, compared to 14 in 2016, the government data revealed.

In Rotterdam, where Papenheim died, there are about 12 homicides a year in the city of roughly 620,000 people.

Comparing it to the United States, its such a difference, Al said. And thats what makes [Papenheims death] such a shock. It was front-page news across Holland, as it should be.

Memorial services for Papenheim have been scheduled for Dec. 29. The family has planned a lighthearted ceremony for 5 to 6 p.m. at Bradshaw Funeral Home, 4600 Greenhaven Drive, White Bear Township, with visitation at 2 p.m. Donations continue to be received on behalf of the family in an online fundraising campaign.

Paul Walsh 612-673-4482

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