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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Saturday, April 11, 2009
By Tracie Mauriello and Jonathan D. Silver Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
First published on April 11, 2009 at 12:00 am
Emily Rachel Silverstein lived in a Gettysburg College residence called Peace House with construction-paper flowers covering the windows and world music filling the hallways. She died a death more violent than her friends care to imagine in her ex-boyfriend’s apartment a quarter-mile away, in a yellow clapboard house that neighbors say was always quiet. Authorities said Kevin R. Schaeffer, also a Gettysburg College student, choked Ms. Silverstein, 19, a sophomore from Roosevelt, N.J., early Thursday morning and then stabbed her in the neck with a steak knife. He sat with her for 15 minutes before putting her in a bathtub, according to a police affidavit.
Mr. Schaeffer, 21, of Oley, Berks County, confessed to the crime, according to the affidavit. He told police he had been drinking that evening but was not intoxicated. He said he had recently stopped taking Zoloft, an anti-depressant, the affidavit said. Police arrested Mr. Schaeffer that morning and charged him with homicide, aggravated assault, possessing instruments of crime and tampering with evidence. Family members and fellow students at the 177-year-old school yesterday tried to come to grips with the tragedy, made all the more poignant because of Ms. Silverstein’s fierce pacifist streak and dedication to social justice. “She was the biggest pacifist around and the sweetest, most gentle soul you’d ever encounter in your life,” her uncle, Matthew Black, 42, of Tinton Falls, N.J. said. “Her one great hope was that she would just make the world a better place. ”
Preliminary autopsy results showed that Ms. Silverstein died from a combination of strangling and stabbing between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. It was not clear why Ms. Silverstein was at his house. The two had recently ended a sporadic romantic relationship.”They’d been on and off, and they had broken up again recently. He never hit her that we know of. But she broke up with him because, I don’t know, he had some issues,” Ms. Silverstein’s father, Robert Silverstein, said yesterday.”At one point he was going home for Easter with her, and then they broke up. So she was going to be coming home last night.”Police recovered the knife used in the attack. Adams County District Attorney Shawn C. Wagner said Mr. Schaeffer was the only suspect in the slaying of a complete innocent. He would not comment on a possible motive.
Ms. Silverstein was an anthropology major. She took Arabic and was planning to study in Morocco next year. The multi-talented Ms. Silverstein played flute and bassoon in her high school marching band, painted and was active in numerous social justice groups, including Amnesty International and Free the Children. She had been a vegetarian since age 12 — “because she didn’t want to hurt animals,” according to her father — and swam competitively in high school. Ms. Silverstein chose the small, historic liberal-arts college in Adams County because the school’s strong social conscience appealed to her, her father said. She met Mr. Schaeffer during her freshman year. He was a history major and two years ahead of her. The two were only friends at the time and used to burn music CDs for each other, her father said.
Mr. Schaeffer’s parents could not be reached for comment. But Alan Romero, 18, whose family shares a driveway with the house occupied by Mr. Schaeffer and his roommates, had good things to say about him. “Kevin seemed like a nice guy, like a hippie kind of person. He always said hello and goodbye to us. He seemed friendly,” Mr. Romero said. The Romero family has lived there for 12 years. They remember previous tenants being partyers; Mr. Schaeffer and the other four or five who live there now have been quiet. Mr. Schaeffer, his roommate and the tenants in the downstairs apartment used to smoke and drink on the porch, but they had no big parties, according to the Romeros. This year, the relationship between Mr. Schaeffer and Ms. Silverstein turned romantic. But it was on-again, off-again.Mr. Silverstein said he thought the two were trying to stay friends. Ms. Silverstein’s mother, Linda Silverstein, and her younger brother, Jamey, 15, had dinner with Emily and Mr. Schaeffer at the school earlier this year.” He seemed like a nice guy,” they reported back.
On Wednesday morning, Gettysburg student Ashton Williams, 22, saw Ms. Silverstein doing Spanish homework in the basement of the library, one of her regular hangouts.”She’d been there all night,” Miss Williams said. “She was a good student.” Around 3 a.m. Thursday, Mr. Romero heard a car drive up to Mr. Schaeffer’s house, which is leased by the college for student housing. He said he heard no sounds of fighting inside. At 6:44 a.m., a woman named Kelsey Simpson called 911 asking for an ambulance and police for a “terrible thing,” the affidavit said. A few minutes later, Ms. Simpson came out of the house, followed by Mr. Schaeffer. Mr. Wagner said Ms. Simpson is not a suspect and will not be charged.
No one answered the door at either apartment yesterday, the first day of spring break for the campus. At the homicide scene, shades were drawn, but a stack of books was visible in one window. Empty packaging from Stella Artois beer littered the front yard. Despite the absence of students on campus, school President Janet Morgan Riggs posted a message on the college’s Web site that said, in part, “our very tight-knit community is grieving for a loss that has deeply shaken us all. “Friends yesterday gathered outside the Peace House with two trowels they used to plant flowers that arrived one pot at a time from classmates and friends, some hiding red eyes behind sunglasses on an overcast day. Some brought candles, photos, a careworn teddy bear, an origami swan and a drawing of a yellow beret, just like the one Ms. Silverstein always wore around campus.Miss Williams knew both Ms. Silverstein and her accused killer. She considered Mr. Schaeffer a friend and now can’t bear to think about the crime he is accused of. “I am angry as all hell …,” Miss Williams said, “but I can’t hate him because Emily wouldn’t want me to. “It’s just a bad situation. To think about what happened and the way she died is when the emotion starts to come. I don’t like to think that such a peaceful person had to die in such a tragic way. ” Mr. Schaeffer was arraigned and is being held without bond. He faces a preliminary hearing Wednesday.
Tracie Mauriello can be reached at email@example.com and 717-787-2141. Jonathan D. Silver can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1962.