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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Aaron Schaffhausen: What Kind of Man Murders His Daughters?

     Jessica Schaffhausen and her three daughters, ages five to eleven, lived in River Falls, Wisconsin, a town of 15,000 30 miles east of the twin cities of St. Paul-Minneapois, Minnesota. The 34-year-old mother had been single six months after she and her husband of 12 years, Aaron Schaffhausen, divorced in January 2012. In March, Jessica had called the police after Aaron threatened to harm one of the children. No arrest followed the complaint which was classified by the police as a "harassment incident."

     On July 5, 2012, Aaron Schaffhausen, a construction worker employed by a St. Paul company to work on projects in western North Dakota, was fired after he didn't show up for work. He was living in Minot, North Dakota.

     Just before noon on July 10, 2012, Aaron called Jessica, who worked in St. Paul for a nonprofit agency on aging, and asked if he could pay the girls a surprise visit. Amara, age eleven, eight-year-old Sophie, and Cecilia who was five, were at home in River Falls. Jessica agreed to the visit, but wanted Aaron out of the house before she got home from work.

     That afternoon, when Aaron Schaffhausen arrived at his former place of residence in the subdivision on the east side of town, the babysitter said goodbye to the girls and went home. Around four that afternoon, Aaron called his ex-wife and said, "You can come home now because I killed the kids."

     Jessica Schaffhausen, after receiving this horrific message, called the police. River Falls officers arrived at the scene about the time Jessica pulled up to the house. Upstairs, officers found the three girls dead and tucked into their beds.

     As the officers were trying to understand what had happened to these children, Aaron showed up at the police department and turned himself in. When asked to describe what he had done, and why, the suspect refused to speak.

    The autopsies of the three victims revealed they had been murdered by what the forensic pathologist called "sharp force entry." They had been stabbed, and the five-year-old had been strangled as well.

     On July 12, 2012, the St. Croix County district attorney charged Aaron Schaffhausen with three counts of first-degree murder. Held on $2 million bond, the defendant faced a mandatory life sentence on each count. A few days after filing these charges, the district attorney appointed Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Gary Freyburg to take over the case as a special prosecutor.

     St. Croix County Circuit Judge Scott Needham, on July 24, 2012 at Schaffhausen's preliminary hearing, heard testimony from River Falls detective John Wilson who said he found a large pool of blood in one of the bedrooms where he believed the three girls had been stabbed. Wilson also noted that the walls were splattered in blood. The girls, lying on their backs with their eyes wide open, had been tucked into their beds. The woman at the police department who had taken Jessica Schaffhausen's call that afternoon described the caller as "hysterical and hyperventilating." Following the 90-minute hearing, the judge bound the case over for trial.

     In early March 2013, Aaron Schaffhausen pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. Although he pleaded guilty he maintained that, due to insanity, he should not be held criminally responsible for his daughters' deaths. On March 5, 2013, at the prosecutor's request, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Erik Knudson interviewed Schaffhausen for seven hours. During that session, Schaffhausen revealed that before the murders he had experienced reoccurring images in his head that featured the violent deaths of his ex-wife and children. Schaffhausen told Dr. Knudson that on two occasions he had aborted plans to murder the girls.

     After the killings, Schaffhausen, when he realized he couldn't clean up the murder scene, decided to burn down the house. In furtherance of that plan, he went to the basement and poured gasoline on the floor. He didn't go through with the arson out of fear he would get trapped in the fire.

     On March 25, 2013, Aaron Schaffhausen went on trial before a jury that would decide whether or not he had been insane at the time of the murders. Dr. Erik Knudson, testifying for the prosecution, opined that the defendant's depression and alcohol dependency had no relevance to why he killed his children. According to the psychiatrist, the defendant, rather than insane, possessed an antisocial personality disorder.

     In his closing remarks to the jury following the testimony phase of the trial, Schaffhausen's attorney argued that his client suffered from a rare mental disorder rooted in his deep dependency on his ex-wife that caused him to believe the only solution to his problems involved murdering his children. The defense attorney blamed the mass murder on what a defense mental health expert had called "catathymic homicide."

     On April 13, 2013, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Notwithstanding Schaffhausen's mental defects, the jurors wanted this defendant held criminally accountable for his murderous behavior. The jurors obviously believed that Schaffhausn, at the time of the murders, knew what he was doing, and that what he was doing was wrong.

     Judge Scott Needham, on July 15, 2013, sentenced  Aaron Scaffhausen to three consecutive life sentences. Because of the nature of his murders, prison authorities were faced with the likelihood that this prisoner's life will be under constant threat from other inmates.

   

     

19 comments:

  1. Violence festers in our society, in our every day lives, on television, in books, at schools and in homes. This is a society where random groups of teenagers attack and beat strangers "for fun". Where children film themsleves beating other children for entertainment. Increasingly when people feel impotent, out of control, or even bored....they turn to violence. We breed it in our homes, in our very children. My mother was abused by my father, who saw his mother abused by his father. When she finally found the strength to leave, he felt out of control...so he threatened to take my sister and I away from her because this is the only way he knew to hurt her to try and control her.

    In this case, we ask why this man would do this to his children? In his mind it was more about what could he do to HER....what is the most painful thing he could think of. She divorced him, she would no longer allow him to control her life. He had no power over her, he hated his job and his life and he felt impotent and out of control. He blamed her. He could have run off with her kids, but he knew that he could hurt her the most by making sure she had no chance of seeing them again....so he killed them. Violently, with anger and malice. He is not insane, just evil. Evil when it loses control.

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    1. I agree with you LoverofLife - wholeheartedly!!!

      Praying for those who REALLY loved these children. He surely didn't.

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    2. Aaron Schaffhausen loved Jessica and his children. The murders had nothing to do with revenge. As it turns out, he was suffering from a psychotic reaction to anti-depressant medication that should never have been prescribed to someone with bipolar disorder, especially without close monitoring. None of his doctors or psychiatrists properly diagnosed his bipolar type II condition. In fact, Aaron was the first victim in a terrible tragegy. He is now on the proper medication and is doing as well as can be expected. We need to stop stigmatizing and criminalizing the mentally ill. We need to treat them and not incarcerate them!

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    3. you are in idiot. Other people with mental disorders don't kill their kids.

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    4. The fact that he was concerned about trapping himself in the basement if he set it on fire shows he knew what he was doing. He did not love his children with any sort of normal love. He could not have loved his exwife either. He did not care about anyone but himself. Unknown you are trying to justify his unforgivable actions. Perhaps you are a relative or a friend who has a hard time coming to grips with his actions. This is what evil truly is. No man (or woman) with any kind of love in them would be capable of such a heinous act to their own children.

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    5. Unknown won't show their name either because it's most likely his family members who have no regard for the children he murdered either. They've done nothing but make excuses....never have I heard in anything they've said publicly any concern for the KIDS whose lives he stole so violently. Bipolar people don't go around killing people...psychopaths and sociopaths do, and there is no treatment other than prison for them. He is right where he belongs and he will never see the light of freedom again.

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    6. Don't entertain the murderers family troll. This is the same crap they spewed all along...every interview. Pathetic and sad, I've never heard them have even one concern for the kids he murdered so violently. Only him. Poor poor psychopath Aaron. Bipolar people don't go around killing...psychos and sociopaths do. He is right where he belongs and thankfully will never see the light of freedom again. I would have backed the death penalty 110% of WI had it.

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    7. also, there is a lot of info not presented in this article...i.e., murderers family testified in court that they knew he had issues even in childhood...why did THeY not get him the help they so valiantly claim he needs? Blame it on the docs and his 'illness'...no one lifted a finger to get him help but it now WI taxpayers get to foot the bill for a murderer who in many other states would have gotten the much deserved death penalty.

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    8. And one more thing...people with Bipolar usually self harm and are suicidal...not homicidal. He could have just done himself in but he CHOSE to drive a few hundred miles to another state after not even so much as speaking to those girls for several months...and then made sure he knew mom would be at work so he could kill those girls. Psychopath. That's the only word for him.

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  2. So scary to think you might be married to someone capable of murder. Call it whatever you want, but once pushed over the edge he was capable of using his children as pawns to hurt his wife - who no longer wanted to be w/him. Catathymia is suggested as a possible cause, though these mental disorders are long in the making. so sad.

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    1. He didn't "use his children as pawns to hurt his wife." Aaron Schaffhausen loved Jessica and his children. The murders had nothing to do with revenge. As it turns out, he was suffering from a psychotic reaction to anti-depressant medication that should never have been prescribed to someone with bipolar disorder, especially without close monitoring. None of his doctors or psychiatrists properly diagnosed his bipolar type II condition. In fact, Aaron was the first victim in a terrible tragegy. He is now on the proper medication and is doing as well as can be expected. We need to stop stigmatizing and criminalizing the mentally ill. We need to treat them and not incarcerate them!

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    2. Its so obvious you're someone in his family.. This piece of shit murdered his children and I bet he's someones b*tch in jail... Your family member will rot in jail

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  3. I live in the town that these murders happened. It is just the sickest thing. We are all wondering how long he'll make it in prison. Jeffery Dahmer lasted two years. I think the only way Schauffhausen will last longer is under the protection of a mental health facility within the prison system.

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    1. Aaron Schaffhausen loved Jessica and his children. The murders had nothing to do with revenge. As it turns out, he was suffering from a psychotic reaction to anti-depressant medication that should never have been prescribed to someone with bipolar disorder, especially without close monitoring. None of his doctors or psychiatrists properly diagnosed his bipolar type II condition. In fact, Aaron was the first victim in a terrible tragedy. He is now on the proper medication and is doing as well as can be expected. We need to stop stigmatizing and criminalizing the mentally ill. We need to treat them and not incarcerate them!

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    2. youre a dipshit

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  4. Who would do that he raised them and everything

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  5. You're just as crazy as him. Have you slaughtered your precious children yet? YOU are the reason he did it. Because of your mentality, the victim mentality, your family member has never had to be accountable or responsible, "it's always someone else's fault." The medicine's fault, the mental health professionals' fault, the school's fault, the wife's fault, the bird singing on a tree limb's fault. But it's not the fault of the monster that cut his babies throats after they were soooooo happy their daddy had finally come to see them. You want to help your family/friend poor victim aaron- YOU failed, YOU should have put him down like they did ole' Yeller a long time ago.

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  6. There are certain inaccuracies in the article. Hon. Howard Cameron presided over the case, not Hon. Scott Needham. In addition, Jessica called the police, and as officers went to the home, she directed them on how to enter. She remained on the line with dispatch for her long drive from MN to River Falls. They directed her to the police station, she did not go to the house and meet officers there.

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  7. I grew up with the Schaffhausen family and Aaron did have mental issues long before this ever happened. He was treated poorly by his father and was very abusive to his family. He was out of control at a young age and nothing was done about it. Mental illness is very scary. The system once again broke here and 3 beautiful girls are dead. Alcoholism and not taking the meds you are prescribed leads to stuff like this. The fault lies in more places other than him. It is very clear he is crazy otherwise he wouldnt have done it. This started long ago and wasnt treated properly by anyone.

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