Missing Phila. woman's body found in North Jersey

Police tape marks the property in Warren County, N.J., where the body of Gina Schickling was found yesterday. She had been missing since June 30.
Police tape marks the property in Warren County, N.J., where the body of Gina Schickling was found yesterday. She had been missing since June 30.
Posted: July 07, 2010

In photos posted on family and friends' Facebook pages, Gina Schickling looked like a fun-loving young woman with a bright future.

But yesterday, instead of pictures of the 22-year-old college student smiling with her fingers forming peace signs, enjoying winter ice skating with friends at Penn's Landing or walking on the beach, Schickling's loved ones posted pictures of sunflowers, her favorite flower, after news spread that she was found dead.

Schickling's live-in boyfriend, ex-con Stephen Benford, 23, was charged last night with her murder, Philadelphia police said.

After receiving a call from Philadelphia police Monday night, police in Warren County, New Jersey, found Schickling's body behind an abandoned home once owned by Benford's parents in Independence Township.

Police said Benford stabbed Schickling multiple times after the two, who had been dating since the end of April, according to Schickling's Facebook page, argued at the couple's apartment on Kensington Avenue near Boudinot Street in Kensington.

A police source told Fox 29 that Benford confessed that after stabbing Schickling - whom he met on a dating Web site - he went to a local Home Depot, bought a garbage can, disposed of Schickling's body and then drove it to his parents' old house.

Benford pleaded guilty in 2006 to an aggravated assault charge and was sentenced to two to five years in prison. He was also ordered to participate in drug and alcohol counseling.

Schickling, who was attending college in San Diego, had been reported missing June 30 after last being seen at the Fire, a bar on Girard Avenue near 4th Street.

Schickling's friends and family formed a group on the social networking site called "Missing: Please help us find Gina."

They also posted missing-person fliers in the area around the bar in Northern Liberties and near the couple's apartment in Kensington.

Her father, Tom Schickling, posted on his Facebook page shortly before 6 p.m. Monday:

"Friends and family - Gina is dead. This is an unspeakable tragedy for our family. We deeply appreciate all of the prayers and all of the help with our efforts to find her. Please allow us time to grieve."

"Gina did not deserve this," a friend posted on the page dedicated to finding her.

"You will be greatly missed by myself and many others . . . my deepest condolences go out to her loving family."

Neighbors near the green and yellow apartment building where Schickling and Benford lived, which is flanked by a vacant building and a church on a block overrun with drug dealers and users, said they didn't like the looks of Benford.

"He looked like he was disturbed," said Trisha, 56. "I didn't like his looks."

Among Benford's "interests" listed on his Facebook page are "Girls With No Self Respect," "Smelling Bad," "Being Trashy," and "Fist Fights."

"She seemed like a very nice person," said Ryan Gibson, 28, who said he lived near the two in Kensington. "She hung around up the street [near the Somerset Street El station]. Every time I seen her she was trying to help someone."

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