It’s a horrible story that has affected one woman’s life for more than three decades. Susan Schuenemann was raped, beaten, shot and left for dead and her attacker has never been caught. She was a young woman of 19 who had come to Savannah from a small, Georgia town to attend school. But on the night of July 1, 1985 her life would change forever. A man grabbed her as she used a pay phone and dragged her to an abandoned house where she was assaulted and left for dead.
Susan left Savannah and tried to build a life but it was difficult. But she says she “survived and moved forward.” For the past 14 years she’s been the head of the Piedmont Rape Crisis Center in northern Georgia.
She returned to Savannah this week to find herself in line to receive a special tribute from a local artist, Jonathan Keller. Last year, Susan told her story at a gala to raise money for the Rape Crisis Center in Savannah. Keller attended the event and says “the room went silent when Susan began to tell her story.
He decided to pay tribute to Susan’s strength, courage and determination by creating a special painting for her. Wednesday, Keller presented the painting telling reporters that it shows a symbolic woman almost in a grave of sorts but she rises. “And eventually Susan kind of got to a place I feel like she was able to overcome that horrific event,” said Keller.
While the two have not known each other long, they seemed like old friends. “This is beautiful and I am so grateful,” Susan told the artist. “Grateful that you made this and that you see the beauty coming from the ugly.”
If you look closely at the woman in the painting, you’ll see words like “fellowship and mercy and survivor”.
“It’s definitely been a very, long tough road at times but I think for me I think the message is there life after this crime,” Susan told us.
She said she accepts the painting on behalf of all the “other victims that are out there, the victims that are thrown into this same path and they don’t choose this path. It’s a very lonely path to be on very lonely and I’ll think about Jonathan Keller and how far you can go despite the obstacles,” she said.
By the way, the artist has made prints of the painting and you can support the Rape Crisis Center of Savannah by buying one of the prints on behalf of Susan and all victims.
How You Might Be Able to Help
No one was ever arrested for the crime. Susan’s case was re-opened some years ago by Savannah Chatham Metro Police but not a great deal of progress could be made. Susan says the rape kit was apparently lost. The shirt she was wearing that night was found in evidence and it was tested for what’s termed “touch DNA” in an effort to perhaps find a hand print or finger print from the suspect. But that wasn’t possible.
Susan clings to hope that one day the man who did this will be found and arrested. She says it’s as much for her as other women she fears became his victims over the years. She says it was an African American male and she believes he was left handed.
She told me that she did have two pieces of jewelry on that night that were never found at the crime scene and she believes the perpetrator took her belongings with him. She says maybe a relative or friend of the man might remember seeing the items. Or maybe even someone who runs a pawn shop might remember, who knows?
The items were two rings. The first was her high school class ring from Thompson High School. It was a mother of pearl ring with the date of 1984 on it.
The second ring she says was unique. It was a ring made out of an old gold coin with a raised up setting. She says there were prongs around the coin.
Susan is hoping that if anyone saw these rings over the years or knows anything about them now, that they will contact Savannah-Chatham Metro Police.