Schaeffer pleads guilty to murdering fellow student

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Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2010 4:14 pm

Family and friends of Emily Silverstein and Kevin Schaeffer fought back tears Thursday afternoon as Adams County District Attorney Shawn Wagner recalled details of the early morning hours inside 524 Carlisle St., Gettysburg, on April 9, 2009.
Shortly before the flashback, Schaeffer, a 23-year-old Berks County native, pleaded guilty to murdering the then 19-year-old Silverstein, of Roosevelt, N.J., inside his apartment at that address while the two were Gettysburg College students.
Schaeffer was sentenced, per a plea agreement with the Adams County District Attorney’s Office, to 26- and a-half to 53 years in state prison on charges of third-degree murder, possessing an instrument of crime with intent to use, tampering with evidence, possessing marijuana with intent to sell and possessing drug paraphernalia.
“I offer my deepest apologies to the Silverstein family,” Schaeffer said Thursday. “I know these are only words but you have been in my thoughts every day and night. If I could trade places with Emily, I would in an instant. Regardless of my future location, I devote the rest of my life to bettering myself, helping others and doing good in Emily’s memory.”
According to the police report, Schaeffer stabbed Silverstein multiple times with a knife in the upper torso and neck areas and also strangled her, according to Wagner. An autopsy showed she died from a combination of injuries.
When police searched Schaeffer’s apartment, they found the knife he used in the murder, that he had “cleaned up the crime scene,” eight to nine baggies of marijuana, rolling papers, $110, a scale and drug-packaging materials.
Schaeffer and Silverstein had a previous relationship that ended several weeks prior to the homicide.
“I can’t begin to imagine what selfish motives went through your mind that night,” Adams County Common Pleas Judge Michael George said to Schaeffer. “But if you have any shred of decency left in you I hope the words you spoke here today were sincere. Your life as you know it has ended. Please try to make some good out of the hand you have dealt yourself.”
As part of the plea agreement, Wagner dropped first-degree murder charges that carried with them a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“One of the reasons we decided to offer this agreement was due to the three separate psychological examinations done with Kevin,” Wagner said. “The major reason, however, was we avoided the trauma of having the family have to listen to the testimony. I have spoken with the Silverstein family and they are in agreement with this decision. Short of spending his entire life in prison, this is the maximum sentence he could have faced.”
During preliminary proceedings, Wagner said Schaeffer’s legal team raised a mental health defense and Schaeffer did have a prior history of illness which would have likely come up at trial.
A tearful and visibly emotional Linda Silverstein, Emily’s mother, followed Schaeffer in addressing the courtroom.
“I yearn to experience Emily again,” she said. “I grieve for all that can never be. My only daughter was stolen from me in an unspeakably selfish act. I will never truly recover. There is only pain, sadness and numbness. I will never forget the moment during my second year of grad school when I found out I was pregnant with Emily and I will never forget the moment I heard she had been murdered. I miss you, I love you, I want you back and I never had a chance to say goodbye.”
Schaeffer’s father, Robert, said his son that his family and his community will always be there for him.
“I know I have disappointed my parents,” Kevin said. “I truly hope the public does not pass judgement on them. I am not asking for forgiveness. I alone am responsible for my actions.”
In addition to his prison sentence, Schaeffer was ordered to pay $6, 231 in restitution. But Judge George chose not to impose an additional fine.
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