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Giving birth during incarceration was wake up call for Port Trevorton woman

Daily Item - 2/18/2024

Feb. 17—

SHAMOKIN — It was only after Kehla Capri Schaeffer delivered her child behind prison walls that she realized the more than two dozen bags of heroin a day she was consuming would leave the baby boy she laid eyes on motherless.

As she delivered her first child in 2017, Schaeffer said she looked at the newborn and decided, "I'm done."

Interviewed in the past week, the now 34-year-old Port Trevorton resident said she has been clean from drugs for seven years and is preparing for the grand opening of her skincare salon, Vintage Vanity LLC, located at 20 S. Market St., in Shamokin, next month.

According to a 2022 state Department of Corrections recidivism report, Scheaffer broke a cycle that most offenders cannot. In Pennsylvania, 64.7% of offenders commit another crime within three years of release from incarceration, the report said. The national recidivism rate over three years is 76%.

Schaeffer, a 2008 Shamokin Area High School graduate, was going into labor the same day she was incarcerated in 2017 at the Cambridge Springs Correctional Facility on drug and hindering charges. She had been part of an investigation into a series of bank robberies that occurred in the Valley.

After three days of hallucinations from the drugs still in her system, Schaeffer said she came to the realization she would not see her child, so she picked herself up and started to think of ways she could get out of jail and into rehabilitation.

At the time of her arrest, she was involved with a man who was accused of several bank robberies across the Valley, but Schaeffer said drugs, drinking and a reckless lifestyle led her to the situation.

She said she woke up one morning and walked down the steps of her Shamokin home and was informed there was a bank robbery and before she knew it she was being questioned by authorities. She was arrested for hindering the investigation and said that, along with seeing her child born, brought her back to her own childhood and what she wanted to do differently for her children.

"I grew up in addiction and it was normalized in my house," she said. "So when I fell into drugs, it felt normal."

Schaeffer said she started drinking as a teen.

"I drank and smoked weed at 13," she said. "It eventually turned into cocaine, pills and heroin by the time I was 23."

Schaeffer said she suffered an injury in her 20s and that led to the pills, but it eventually built up to needing 40 bags of heroin a day just to feel normal.

"I got wrapped in the lifestyle," she said. "I first got arrested for a DUI, and there were drugs and then the hindering. I was never in trouble before any of that had happened."

Schaeffer said she had no involvement in the bank robberies and was not present but being linked to the "lifestyle of drugs" got her name on the watch list.

"When you have addiction, you can go on and on for hours," she said. "There are so many things I learned happened after the fact that I didn't even know about until the night I was questioned and they were showing me proof."

Schaeffer said she also struggled because she needed her mother, who she found dead of a drug overdose.

"I saved my mom so many times by calling the ambulance," she said. "So this was very devastating to me and I went from the straight and narrow to letting everything go, including college, and I just lost reality."

Schaeffer said she also couldn't just pick up the phone and call her father. He was incarcerated at the time on murder charges.

Schaeffer's father, Scott Schaeffer, of Sunbury, was accused in 1989 for what police said was his part in the murder of Rickey Wolfe, a case that is still open to this day.

Scott Schaeffer spent nearly 17 years in state prison before new evidence was produced allowing him to get a new trial or accept a plea agreement which would free him and allow him to be with family.

Scott Schaeffer has continued to fight to clear his name and is still currently in the legal system fighting to try to get evidence collected at the scene of Wolfe's 1986 homicide. Wolfe, 30, of Mifflinburg, was discovered beaten to death near a boat launch in Montandon. Schaeffer, through his attorney Joel Wiest, said some evidence was never tested.

Scott Schaeffer has maintained his innocence from the day he was arrested in 1989.

Kehla Schaeffer said the weight of not having her father to call as a teenager was tough to deal with.

"Growing up was tough because I lived in a split world," she said. "My dad was in jail for murder, my mom was an addict. I was the kid with all this around me and it gave me a stigma."

Kehla Schaeffer said she supports her father's efforts to clear his name.

"A lot of lives were hurt," she said. "I never got to fully know my dad and go on a vacation or see him at my school plays. Justice would be served for more than just him if he were to be able to clear his name."

Kehla Schaeffer said when she was released from jail in 2017, after spending three months, she struggled to find work. She often picked up bartending jobs, but she said her name was hurting her and instead of being tempted to use, she went back to school.

She wanted to give her now three children a better life, so she went back to school to become an esthetician or skin care professional.

After graduating in 2021, she opened her own shop, first in Selinsgrove, and now in Shamokin, where she is hosting her grand opening in March, all while being clean for seven years.

"I have no desire to even be around it," she said. "It doesn't even cross my mind anymore. I want to be a good mother to my children, work hard and be able to get my children the things they want and I want to be able to have them look at me with pride."

She said she is excited about her new salon.

"I have been remodeling, painting, and getting everything ready, and I couldn't be happier," she said.

Kehla Schaeffer said she wanted to speak about her life to help others.

"If any of this can help just one person, I will be very happy," she said. "Addiction is very real and it is very scary.

"I want to be able to share my story and let people know they have options and there is help to improve their lives. The person who has to do it is themselves. You have to want to, and you will."


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