Hannah Schelling last heard from her son, Christopher, when he called in November with a plea she’d never before heard.
“He said, ‘Mom, I’m in really deep. Can I come home?’ ” Schelling recalled. She begged her only son to let her pick him up, but he promised he’d be at his parents’ home in southern Pend Oreille County the next day. He never showed up.
Kootenai County sheriff’s investigators pulled Chris Schelling’s body from the Spokane River, east of Post Falls, last weekend.
A detective determined Schelling entered the water while fleeing a police chase in early December, just weeks after he promised his mother he’d come home. His mother learned of his death on Monday – his 32nd birthday.
“He had an extremely tormented soul and he’s finally at peace,” said Hannah Schelling. “It was meth. Meth was his destruction.”
Investigators think Schelling and another man were high on drugs when they sped away from a Kootenai County sheriff’s deputy near the Idaho-Washington border late Dec. 3. The men fled on foot after their car crashed at the end of Pleasantview Road near the Spokane River, upstream from where Schelling’s body was found last weekend.
Police found a ski mask and plastic “flex cuffs” in the car, said Post Falls police Chief Scot Haug.
Schelling’s family reported him missing about a week later. When they didn’t hear from him around Christmas time, they feared the worst.
Apparently others did, too. Someone commented anonymously on an online news story in January about a dead body and predicted it was Schelling’s, and his family heard rumors of revenge-seeking drug dealers.
But investigators found no obvious trauma on his body, and a detective determined Schelling had been in the river since the night of the chase.
“I hate to say it, but it does make me feel better to know that he made a choice,” said Karen Beeman, a family friend who had known Schelling since he was a boy. “People have got to learn they can’t use all of life’s problems as an excuse.”
Schelling was born in Baltimore but grew up in Eastern Washington. He was a longtime felon who did several stints in juvenile detention and state prisons for drug and property crimes but never could kick his drug addiction, said Hannah Schelling, a veterinarian.
When a police dog helped capture him inside a stranger’s home after he crashed a stolen motorcycle last June, he told the officer he was addicted to drugs, according to court documents.
A bond company helped him post $40,000 bond in November on drug and car-theft charges. Hannah Schelling wonders what would have happened had he stayed in jail, where he was always able to sober up and vow to do better.
She’s saved each letter he’s written to her in the 20 or so years he’s been in and out of police custody. In them, he promises to carve a better life and kick drugs. Schelling wonders if she should put them together as a book about a person’s demise.
“This is what drugs can do to somebody,” she said.
The family plans to memorialize Schelling this summer with “a celebration of what could have been,” his mother said.