Victim remembered as wise, kindly

Pastor Cecil Haycock of Walker’s Chapel Church of the Brethren in Mount Jackson remembers Phyllis Kline as an energetic member of his congregation.

“She was a pianist. She was active in a number of activities,” Haycock said in an interview. “She was a person we could depend on getting things done.”

When Kline failed to appear for church services on the morning of June 16, 2013, several church members went to her house to check on her. They found a door damaged by what appeared to be a burglar and called authorities.

Claude Shafer Jr., the man sentenced Friday in Kline’s stabbing death, attended church with Kline, although Haycock did not consider him a formal member of the church. But Kline, 65, and Shafer got to know each other, and she later hired him to perform chores around her home.

Kline was undeterred by Shafer’s long criminal past that included stints behind bars for numerous burglaries and other crimes.

“She met him and recognized his needs,” Haycock said of Kline and Shafer. “They did not live far from here. She knew his past, and she was willing to do what she could to help him.”

Christopher Dowling, a nephew of Kline’s, choked up as he testified at the sentencing hearing about how Kline treated him and his siblings as “the closest thing she had to children.”

“She was a voice of wisdom,” Dowling said. “I learned a lot from her. Phyllis got me to read a lot. Phyllis would read anything she touched and that rubbed off on me a little bit.”

Dowling finished his testimony by replying to calls for compassion from Shafer and his attorneys.

“Well, I’m asking the court, my family is asking the court to have compassion for Phyllis and her family,” Dowling said. “This is the last time that’s going to be able to happen.”

Haycock said Kline’s death jarred his entire congregation, but it remains committed to helping drug offenders and others with criminal records regain their footing in society. Still, he admits the emotional aftershocks of Kline’s murder linger among some church members.

“There are some people who have reconciled and are willing to forgive and move on, but there are others, it’s still a raw wound for them,” Haycock said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or

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