MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) –A father accused of killing his three little girls returned to court Tuesday.

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Amara, Sophie, and Cecilla died in their River Falls home last month.

Police say their father, Aaron Schaffhausen, had previously threatened to hurt his ex-wife and one of his children.

Schaffhausen was expected to enter a not guilty plea but instead decided to “stand mute.” So as is required under Wisconsin law, the judge entered a not guilty plea for him.

Schaffhausen entered the courtroom in an orange jumpsuit with both his hands and feet shackled. He was clean-shaven and said very little.

The defense and prosecuting attorneys argued over whether a mental health counselor should be allowed to visit Schaffhausen in jail. The defense wanted to prevent the mental health counselor but the judge ruled they could visit.

“It’s kind of ridiculous isn’t it? That if you are confined to a jail that they can keep sending someone in to talk to you. Maybe we will go to the Court of Appeals,” said Schaffhausen’s attorney, John Kucinski.

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When the judge asked Schaffhausen if he understood the murder charges against him, he said “yes,” without any emotion.

The defense attorney said he is not sure what plea Schaffhausen will eventually enter. In court, documents filed before Tuesday’s hearing made a strong case that Schaffhausen may plea not guilty by reason of insanity.

The entire hearing lasted about 30 minutes. Afterwards, prosecutor Gary Freyberg refused to comment on specific facts in the case, but did say more evidence could be coming.

“Sometimes people are discovering things in the middle of a trial,” he said. “We will leave no stone unturned to get the truth of this matter and see that justice is done.”

The prosecution is still hoping a laptop and cell phone that belonged to Aaron Schaffhausen will be found, Freyberg said. He thinks those items may be evidence that could help their case.

By standing mute, Schaffhausen’s attorney could still have him plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

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Schaffhausen will have his next court date on Sept. 20.

John Lauritsen