Tragedy struck Rebecca Schiering early and often in life.
The Spokane Valley woman struggled with drug addiction and abuse for years but picked herself up, escaping the crime-addled father of her twin boys. That part of her life was a distant memory when he was killed in a drug-related robbery four years ago.
But despite her best efforts, tragedy struck the 36-year-old and her children again this weekend.
Police say her ex-fiancé, a seemingly stable mechanical engineer who once embraced her children as his own, ended her life in a violent rampage that also killed one of her 9-year-old twin boys and left her teenage son with knife wounds to his neck.
The second twin, who is autistic, was not harmed in the attack and is staying with family.
“Her children were her inspiration,” said Schiering’s aunt, Bonnie Bickler, who traveled to Spokane from Billings. She said the boys, like the rest of the family, are struggling.
“We’re just trying to get our arms around it,” Bickler said. “It’s just so hard to deal with.”
Police believe Jan R. DeMeerleer, 39, shot Schiering and 9-year-old Phillip Schiering in the woman’s duplex at 622 N. Ella Road before trying to cut the teen, who called 911 about 3 a.m.
Police found DeMeerleer dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the garage of his nearby home at 8324 E. Briant Lane later that day. A woman who answered the door at the home Monday afternoon declined comment.
A divorced father of a 9-year-old girl, DeMeerleer was a 1994 Purdue University graduate who worked as a project manager for Advanced Input Systems in Coeur d’Alene. But DeMeerleer lost his job a few months ago and recently purchased a carwash, said the 17-year-old’s father, Rick, who asked that his last name not be used to protect his son’s identity.
The teen said DeMeerleer took medication for bipolarity, Rick said. Neighbors said Sunday that Phillip’s twin brother had been hurt by DeMeerleer in a domestic dispute, prompting Schiering to leave him.
“She just finally broke it off with him, and I don’t think he liked it,” Rick said.
Police responded to Schiering’s home after the teen’s frantic 911 call. Schiering was dead on the kitchen floor. Phillip Schiering was taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he was put on life support and later died, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A makeshift memorial formed Monday in front of The Reclothery, a consignment clothing store Schiering owned at 613 S. Washington St. A sign on the door said the store will be closed until further notice. Bickler said the family hasn’t yet thought about what to do with the store.
Schiering was well known for the store and her volunteer work with groups including the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery and St. Margaret’s Shelter of Catholic Charities, where she once lived. She was to teach a class this week on retail skills, said Director Nadine Van Stone.
Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady met Schiering when the woman testified against a methamphetamine maker in 2002.
“If she hadn’t told you she was involved in drugs you never would have believed it,” Brady said. “The jury loved her. She was very honest about what her past had been … but was very proud of how far she’d come. With good reason.”
Schiering was living at St. Margaret’s when her twins were a year old. By 2005, she was on her way to owning The Reclothery and was sharing her success story with The Spokesman-Review. The next year, the father of her twins, Craig Schiering, was found dead in the embers of a fire near Newman Lake. He had an extensive criminal record and was a suspect in a pending vehicular homicide case when he was killed by methamphetamine dealers on Aug. 11, 2006.
“He was not in her life then,” Brady said. “She wanted a better life (for her children) than having a mother who was involved in drugs.”
A year earlier in a Spokesman-Review profile, Schiering had urged young women to quit blaming their problems on others.
“Break up with that guy who beats you. Break up with that guy stuck in prison,” she said.
Schiering’s aunt described her Monday as a “whirlwind.”
“When she walked in the room, you felt the energy,” Bickler said.
Schiering’s family said her remarkable turnaround makes Sunday’s tragedy hurt worse.
“That’s probably what makes it twice as hard for us – that she had survived these insurmountable odds,” Bickler said.