Mother of US student stabbed to death in Netherlands ‘totally in shock’
Facebook/Sarah Papenheim(ROTTERDAM, Netherlands) — Donee Odegard knew what happened the minute two sheriffs showed up at her door. She’d been through it before.
The authorities asked her a few questions about her daughter, Sarah Papenheim, before delivering the news: Her daughter had been stabbed to death while studying abroad in the Netherlands.
“He was sad to inform me that my beautiful daughter had passed. I kind of knew it was coming when you have done this before,” said Odegard, whose son had committed suicide at 21 three years ago, in an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America.
“When he started answering me questions, there is no way sheriffs come to your door unless you committed a crime,” she continued. “You kind of know what they are going to say.”
Papenheim, a Minnesotan native, died Wednesday afternoon after she was attacked at her apartment in Rotterdam, according to Rotterdam police and Minneapolis ABC affiliate KSTP-TV.
The suspect, a 23-year-old Dutch man, lived in the same building as Papenheim, and the two were believed to be acquaintances, Rotterdam police said.
The suspect was arrested about an hour after officers found her body, police said. He was located at a train station about 60 miles from Rotterdam.
Odegard said the man, whose name has not been released, was a cello player and her daughter was a talented jazz drummer. Both were studying music.
“They loved talking about music,” Odegard said. “There was times he would have highs and lows.”
“Nothing concerned me until the last time I talked to her when she told me this story,” Odegard added. “She said, ‘Mommy he did this. He is acting strange.'” Odegard said she told her daughter to “not be around him,” but as relayed by her mother, Papenheim said, “Mom, he is my friend. I am his only friend. He would get angry, but I can always talk him down and change his mind.”
No motive has been established, police said.
Papenheim attended Erasmus University in the Netherlands, Rotterdam police said.
“The university is shocked by this terrible incident and is taking care of upset students and employees and will act towards relatives according to our protocols,” a university spokeswoman said in a statement. “We encourage our students and staff not to let each other alone in this difficult time and to get in touch with student-advisors and psychologists if they want to.”
She was living in the Netherlands after meeting someone playing a game online who lived in the country, her mother said. She traveled to the country to meet him, and after they began dating she decided to move to the country for school. Her mother praised her boyfriend, Nico, for the support he’s provided, both emotionally and as a native Dutch speaker.
“He has been a rock for her,” Odegard said. “He was there when my son committed suicide; he has been there for her so much. I don’t know what would have happened for both of us if he wasn’t there. He helped us so much.”
Papenheim was a talented drummer and a fixture in the music scene in Minnesota. Her mother said she was returning home for Christmas and had already booked a performance. Now, her friends will be performing to raise money for her burial.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson confirmed Papenheim’s death and said the department extends its “deepest condolences to her family and friends.”
“We are providing all appropriate consular services,” the spokesperson said.
Odegard said she is getting finances in order to bring her daughter back from the Netherlands, she said.
“I know that everyone says that their daughter or son is the sunshine in everybody’s life, but my daughter lights up the world,” she said.
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