Speak Out for Stephanie –
On July 1st, 1993, Stephanie Schmidt was murdered by a coworker who turned out to be a paroled, repeat sex offender. Stephanie was a college student at Pittsburg State University where she worked as a waitress in a local restaurant. A few friends invited Stephanie out to celebrate her upcoming birthday. Stephanie chose to leave the party early. She accepted what she thought was a safer ride home from a trusted coworker. She was unaware that he was on parole for serving ten years of a twenty year sentence for rape. Twenty seven days later, after appearing on America’s Most Wanted, her assailant lead authorities to Stephanie’s abandoned body. Stephanie wold have turned twenty years old on July 4th, 1993.
This high profile case ignited changes in Kansas sex offender laws lead by Stephanie’s family – parents, Gene and Peggy Schmidt and only sister, Jeni. It became the family’s mission to speak out on behalf of other victims. With the help of friends and lawmakers, the family started the Speak Out for Stephanie Foundation (S.O.S.) to create public awareness and advocate for victims’ rights.
Jeni was active with the foundation for the first ten years. As a college freshmen, she testified on the state and national level to strengthen sex offender laws. Jeni helped plan and organize the annual S.O.S. walk and music festival until it ended in 2003. She spoke to many schools on victims’ rights and sibling grief, including George Mason University and the University of Kansas.
Jeni was “Speaking Out,” but silently struggling to survive and process this inconceivable tragedy. In 2001, Jeni took a step back from public speaking and began sorting through broken pieces of her life.
Along with her parents, Jeni currently manages the Speak Out for Stephanie Facebook Page which encourages friends, family and supporters of S.O.S. to stay connected and serves as a grief support network. Jeni originally started this blog to inspire others who have lost a loved one, especially those who have lost a sibling. There are a limited number of resources for sibling grief. It is not a club anyone wants to join, but we can find some peace in knowing we are not alone in our thoughts.
For more information about the history of the Speak Out for Stephanie Foundation, visit the Media Links page.