Reporting Esme Murphy
HUDSON, Wis. (WCCO) — Testimony wrapped up in the Aaron Schaffhausen insanity trial Monday and the jury could get the case as early as mid-morning Tuesday.
The final witness, a prosecution psychiatrist, took the stand early Monday, testifying that Schaffhausen was sane when he committed the murders.
Dr. Erik Knudson, who interviewed Schaffhausen for six hours, testified that, in his opinion, Schaffhausen planned the murders of his three girls and tried to cover up key evidence.
According to Knudson, his sanity finding was not even a close call. His testimony featured example after example of why he thought Schaffhausen knew what he was doing when he committed the murders of Amara, 11, Sophie, 8, and Cecelia, 5.
Knudson said that even the way Schaffhausen described the murders shows he is sane.
“That is not the act of a person that has a mental disease,” Knudson said.
He said Schaffhausen told him he at first strangled Cecelia, but then realized she had not died, so he retrieved a knife.
“He then directed the other two daughters upstairs and when they go, he gets a better weapon. When it was too hard to strangle the one daughter, so he chooses a different method that was ultimately more effective,” Knudson said.
Knudson said after the murders, when Schaffhausen tried to set the house on fire, he turned off the power to the furnace to make sure he would not be hurt in an explosion.
“He shows very acute awareness of his circumstances — a moment of self-preservation. He knows that having the furnace on while he is pouring gasoline puts him at risk and so he turns it off in order to do this safely,” Knudson said.
Knudson said that shows Schaffhausen was fully aware of what he was doing.
“He has three victims and he is able to control their whereabouts, so that he can get them one at a time in order to kill them,” Knudson said.
Knudson said the fact that Schaffhausen tried to clean up the blood in the home, tried to set the house on fire and later throw out his laptop and cell phone shows elements of a cover-up.
“It does show awareness of what he is doing,” Knudson said. “It also shows he is in control.”
Knudson is the second medical expert to testify Schaffhausen was sane. A defense psychologist, however, disagreed, testifying that Schaffhausen was insane.
Closing statements will happen shortly after trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Then jury deliberating will begin.