Reporting Esme Murphy
In the first hours of jury selection in Aaron Schaffhausen’s insanity trial, a prospective juror raised her hand and said she could not be impartial. She said she believed Aaron Schaffhausen had to be insane because of the crime he had committed; stabbing to death his daughters ages 11, 8 and 5.
That part of what the defense is counting on as they introduce evidence and call witnesses that lay out the monstrous acts Schaffhausen has pleaded guilty to. But is he sane?
There are at times during the evidence where the testimony and his behavior in court and in a videotaped interrogation suggest someone who is seriously mentally ill. There is clear evidence he talked about killing the children months before the murders.
But there is one piece of evidence that stands out for me. It’s the phone call recorded by the River Falls Police Department in which an officer confronts Schaffhausen about the threat he had made earlier that day to his former wife.
Jessica Schaffhausen testified that day that Aaron had called her and told her “he wanted to come down there (River Falls), have her choose which child to kill and have her watch so that she feel the same pain she had caused him.”
In that phone call recorded by police, Schaffhausen denies the threat, rationalizes his harassment of his former wife and justifies his behavior. He tries to bully the female officer, demanding to know her marital status. He is manipulative and self-serving.
It is the only glimpse we have of Aaron Schaffhausen in his own words in an extended conversation. And in that moment, at least, he clearly knows right from wrong as he insists he is the one who is being victimized. He lies as he denies the horrible threat he made.
In that phone conversation he also insists he is not a threat to himself or others. Four months later he murdered his children.