MADISON, Wis. (WCCO/AP) – A River Falls Police dispatcher says the mother of three slain children was hysterical when she called for help.
Aaron Schaffhausen faces three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of his daughters — Amara, Sophie and Cecila Schaffhausen. Investigators say he showed up at the home they shared with their mother, his ex-wife Jessica Schaffhausen, on July 10 while she was out and slit the girls’ throats.
Dispatcher Ailene Splittgerber testified at Aaron Schaffhausen’s preliminary hearing Tuesday in St. Croix County that she answered a call from Jessica Schaffhausen on July 10. She says the woman was in tears and told her that her ex-husband had called her and said he had killed the children. Schaffhausen sat listening to the testimony, without expression.
Splittgerber says the call lasted about 40 minutes. She says Jessica Schaffhausen was crying and hysterical the entire time.
“She told me her ex-husband had called her and told her he killed the children and she could come home,” she said.
Earlier, the girls’ babysitter testified that the girls were happy to see their father and that when she left, they three girls were playing with their dad.
“They were very happy to see their father,” she said.
A police investigator gave chilling details about the scene he walked in on — when he entered the home and found 11-year-old Amara, tucked in her bed.
“The child was lifeless, no color in the face, appeared to have dried blood on her face,” he said.
The other girls were tucked in their beds, too. In one bedroom, there was a large pool of blood leading police to believe the girls were killed in one bedroom and then carried to their beds. After the hearing, Aaron Schaffhausen’s father would only say this about the case and how his family is doing.
“As best as can be expected,” said Roger Schaffhausen, who wouldn’t comment on claims his son is suffering from depression. “It’s a hard time for everybody.”
Defense attorney John Kucinski offered insight into the case.
“The state probably has in their files a bunch of facts that show he was depressed and that he probably was on medication,” he said.
Schaffhausen, Kucinski said, was a loving and devoted father. He said it’s way too early to consider an insanity defense.
“We have to find out what the facts are,” he said.
The defense says they are also planning to file motions to dismiss the case based on a lack of evidence.
The prosecution says there is a great deal of evidence in this case — and the judge agreed, saying there is definitely enough for Schaffhausen to stand trial.
The judge ordered Schaffhausen to stand trial on all three counts of first-degree intentional homicide at Tuesday’s hearing. St. Croix County Circuit Judge Scott Needham says prosecutors presented enough evidence during a preliminary hearing Tuesday to try Aaron Schaffhausen on the three counts.
His next court date on Aug. 28.
At his first hearing, which occurred a few days after the girls’ deaths, Schaffhausen sat in virtual silence. His public defender did most of the answering for him.
Schaffhausen has been under suicide watch at the jail, and in a cell by himself. When this happens, a record of phone calls and other conversations are kept. His lawyer has asked to preserve that material from being shown in court today. Also, he wants to close the courtroom to TV cameras and photographers.
The judge has yet to rule on those requests, and prosecutors have asked for more help in this case due to its complexity.
Assistant Wisconsin Attorney General Gary Freyberg will prosecute the case.
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