Wharton doctoral student Shannon Schieber was strangled last Thursday in her downtown apartment. First-year Wharton doctoral student Shannon Schieber, an ambitious young woman who colleagues described as lively and outgoing, was strangled to death by an intruder inside her Center City apartment in the early-morning hours of May 7. She was 23. Philadelphia homicide detectives have launched an intensive investigation into the case, which Inspector Jerrold Kane called "extremely interesting" for its many "possibilities" -- not the least of which is that Schieber may have been killed by a fellow Wharton graduate student who was allegedly stalking her. To students and city residents, Schieber's horrific death was as unusual as it was shocking. At the time of the murder, Schieber was inside a locked apartment. No weapon was used. While police noted that the place was "in disarray" and objects were stolen, burglary was not the apparent motive. And it occurred in an attractive, welcoming street in Center City, where fewer than 3 percent of the city's homicides take place. The murder was so far-fetched that even upon hearing screams coming from Schieber's room at about 2 a.m., a neighbor across the hall allowed police officers responding to his call to leave the scene after inspecting the exterior of the apartment and banging on the door. But when Schieber's brother drove through Philadelphia with the intention of meeting her later that day, events quickly unfolded in a nightmarish sequence. It was about 2 p.m. last Thursday when Sean Schieber, concerned that Shannon had not shown up for their lunch date -- or for her job in Vance Hall -- drove to her apartment near 23rd and Spruce streets, only to find her door locked and no sign of her whereabouts. He then ran into the neighbor who had called police, and together the two scoured the building. Outside, they realized the sliding glass door to her second floor balcony, which is shaded by a tree, was slightly open. Immediately, they began work breaking down the door. Shannon Schieber was nude and lifeless on her bed in a room that had been ransacked. There were "no outward signs" she had been sexually assaulted in any way before her death, Kane said. An autopsy conducted the following day concluded that Schieber's murderer had "manually" strangled her to death. Also last Friday, detectives questioned Yuval Bar-or -- a 28-year-old Wharton graduate student who Schieber said was stalking her -- for 12 hours before releasing him. Schieber had filed a complaint with the University Police Special Services unit against Bar-or, who friends and colleagues said had developed an obsession with Schieber. Repeated attempts to reach Bar-or by telephone this week were unsuccessful. Security guards in his apartment building refused to allow a Daily Pennsylvanian reporter to visit his room. According to one colleague, Bar-or sent Schieber disturbing e-mails and once threatened her life. "She was visibly shaken whenever she talked about it," said the colleague, who asked to remain anonymous. "People are afraid of him." While conceding that Bar-or was the only substantive "lead" detectives have currently unearthed, Kane said he could not "rule out anything." Also, Kane refused to call Bar-or a suspect, saying only that he was "very cooperative" during the questioning. "I wouldn't even say [the murder] wasn't random," Kane said. But detectives could have a much more definitive lead by the end of the week, depending on whether the city's Medical Examiner's Office establishes that DNA evidence acquired at the scene of the crime matches Bar-or. Bar-or, who is currently studying finance at Wharton and living in a high-rise apartment building at 2400 Chestnut Street -- where many other Penn graduate students reside -- told police he was "at home sleeping" when the murder took place, Kane said. Bar-or, like nearly all Israeli citizens, is a former soldier. If he left the building, a security guard might have seen him through the front lobby or one of the four exits its surveillance cameras monitor. But according to security guards at the building, the cameras are not hooked up to VCRs so there are no security tapes from that night. A security guard said he knew Bar-or as a "quiet" student who he had "talked sports" with a number of times and who always made a point of saying "hello." "I hope [the killer is] not him," the guard said. Most of Schieber's colleagues at Wharton -- where she was enrolled in an extremely close-knit, rigorous insurance and risk management program -- refused to comment on her relationship with Bar-or. But three of her colleagues said they were aware of the situation. They emphasized that Bar-or was not her boyfriend but had fixated himself on her. "She might not have been paranoid enough," said one of the colleagues, who recalled Schieber as an assertive, outgoing woman who was very "confident with men." But the individual noted that Schieber -- who grew up in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Md., and graduated in three years with three majors from Duke University in North Carolina -- had a tree leading up to her balcony and no bars on her second-floor windows. Penn Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush would not comment on the nature of the complaint Schieber filed, though Rush did explain the steps police could take for victims of stalkers. "It's not black and white," Rush said of the legal issues surrounding stalking. "There's a subtle threshold of acceptability." She added that many stalking cases do not have the factual potential to rise from the civil to the criminal level. But Rush stressed that police encourage victims to inform them of their circumstances, if merely to attain "priority response" if a situation becomes more serious. "If a minor nuisance escalates, the person shouldn't sit around and wait wondering what the next step is," Rush said, explaining that beyond giving advice and counseling to stalking victims, the Penn Police will also be aware in advance of a stalking situation when and if it becomes graver -- if a student reports it. Unlike the Penn Police, the Philadelphia Police -- whose jurisdiction covers Schieber's former apartment -- were unaware of her circumstances, which Kane said she could have reported to receive a formal restraining order. "But people do all these things and then they get killed anyway," Kane said. Schieber's murder was the first homicide of a Penn employee or student since October 1996, when University biochemist Vladimir Sled, 38, was stabbed to death on the 4300 block of Larchwood Avenue. The last one before that was in August 1994, when a group of teenagers robbed and killed Mathematics graduate student Al-Moez Alimohamed, 27, near 48th and Pine streets. Schieber, who is survived by her parents and brother, was buried Tuesday in Silver Spring, Md., near her suburban Washington, D.C., home.Comments powered by Disqus
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