MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota music community is reeling after the death of Sarah Papenheim, who was killed while studying overseas.

Police say the 21-year-old from Andover, who was studying psychology at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, was fatally stabbed by a 23-year-old man Wednesday. According to local media reports, police came to her apartment after neighbors heard fighting and screaming. Authorities found Papenheim stabbed and unconscious, in a pool of blood. She died at the scene.

The suspect, described as her roommmate, fled the city, but police captured him getting off a train in Eindhoven, which is about 60 miles southeast of Rotterdam. The man lived in the same student apartment building as Papenheim.

While she was only 21, Papenheim performed with some of the Twin Cities’ most well-respected musicians. A dazzling video of Papenheim playing with the Bernard Allison Group in Bonn, Germany 17 months ago shows her virtuosity and spirit.

The bandmates who shared the stage with her that night and others are devastated. Mario Dawson and George Moye met Papenheim when she came to the open jam sessions at Shaw’s in northeast Minneapolis when she was just 15 years old.

“We are holding each other together today in this community because she was so special,” Dawson said.

Compounding the tragedy is that Papenheim was expected home next week for the holidays.

“The thing that is going through my head is that she was coming home for Christmas, and we were all so excited to see her and to hear that she was coming back that way, and that was just tragic,” Moye said.

After seeing her perform at Shaw’s, Jellybean Johnson gave Papenheim a nickname for the powerful way she played the drums.

“I liked her because she hit the drums just as hard as guys did,” Johnson said. “So I nicknamed her ‘Thumper.’”

The funk legend and Prince drummer would become her mentor and friend over the next few years. Calling her “a great spirit,” Johnson was shocked to learn her young life was viciously stolen after Papenheim’s mother sent him a message on Wednesday evening.

“I’m still numb from it,” Johnson said. “I still can’t believe that something this bad happened to her, especially, because she was such a great kid.”

Papenheim had moved to Netherlands to study psychology, with a focus on suicide.

“She went there, you know, to start a new thing because her brother committed suicide three years ago,” Johnson said.

Now, her mother must bury another child, and her Minnesota family in music will have to face the new reality of playing without her.

The family is now trying to raise money to bring Papenheim’s body back to Minnesota.

“Sarah deserves it,” said family friend and fellow musician Joyann Parker. “She would be the first person to help somebody else if she could.”

Family members are leaving the Twin Cities Friday to begin the process of bringing Papenheim home. A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money to pay the costs of that journey and for funeral expenses.

Comments (55)
  1. Lanaya Bloomquist Baker says:

    Reeling is an accurate adjective. Sarah was loved, courageous, talented, tenacious, fiery, and so smart and loving! What a loss!

  2. Bullet Hole Johnson say “I be shocked youz all done know the karma of deez white girls that turn up in ma hip hop clubs to be culturally enriched. Mmm mmm I likes breakin in dem liberal white girls.”

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