Rotterdam man facing 10 years in fatal stabbing of American woman

The Public Prosecution Service demanded 10 years in prison and institutionalized psychiatric treatment against 24-year-old Joel S. for the murder of Sarah Papenheim. The 21-year-old American student was stabbed to death in her student home on Kerklaan in the Rotterdam district of Kralingen in December last year. 

S. was arrested on the platform at Eindhoven station shortly after Papenheim's body was found. He confessed to killing the young woman. He lived in the same student complex as Papenheim and the two became friends over their shared passion for music.

Early in December last year, Papenheim told a friend that she was worried about Joel S. The friend called the Disturbed Persons hotline and employees of the neighborhood team visited S. twice, but saw no reason to intervene immediately. A few days later, Papenheim reported that S. had said he wanted to be a serial killer. Staff of mental health service GGZ decided to visit him again, but it was too late.

Papenheim was stabbed 27 times and cut ten times. S. told the court that he does not remember much about the day the young woman was stabbed to death. "I wanted to talk to her. I was angry with her. A struggle arose at the door and she bit me. Then I saw blood on the wall and saw her lying on her back", S. told the court. He wanted to talk to Papenheim about a remark she had made to him a short time earlier, when he told her he was going to commit suicide, he said. "I was angry with her because she said 'do it then'. You don't do that."

When the judge asked S. "why" he killed Papenheim, he said: "I don't know".

S.'s claim not to remember the murder or why he did it, infuriated Sarah's mother, who came from the United States to attend the hearing. "He doesn't remember? Bull shit", she said to De Stentor after the hearing. "He may have said 'a thousand times sorry', but that doesn't mean anything to me. What he took from me was everything to me. Sarah always wanted to help everyone. It cost her her life."

S. was examined by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a neurologist. They concluded that S. lost touch with reality due to a combination of multiple disorders including autism, schizophrenia and psychosis. He cannot be held fully accountable, the experts said, recommending treatment.