Father charged in deaths of 3 young daughtersThree young sisters are dead and their father, who recently relocated from River Falls to Minot, N.D., has been charged in their deaths.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls (Wis.) Journal
RIVER FALLS, Wis. — Three young sisters are dead and their father, who recently relocated from River Falls to Minot, N.D., has been charged in their deaths.
The victims are Amara Schaffhausen, 11; Sophie Schaffhausen, 8; and Cecilia Lee Schaffhausen, 5.
Their father, Aaron Schaffhausen, 34, was booked into St. Croix County Jail in Hudson, Wis., at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday on three counts of first-degree intentional homicide. He allegedly left his three daughters behind in their home with the gas fireplace activated on the first floor and the odor of flammable liquid coming from the basement.
Schaffhausen and his wife, Jessica, were divorced earlier this year. He lived in Minot, but had visiting rights.
River Falls Police Chief Roger Leque said Aaron Schaffhausen, either by text or phone call, alerted his wife that he was coming to see the kids Tuesday. She apparently was OK with that “spontaneous visit.”
Leque said a babysitter was at the house but left after Aaron Schaffhausen arrived.
Jessica Schaffhausen received a call later from her ex-husband that indicated he’d harmed the children. She alerted police about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and asked them to check the welfare of her children.
Police entered the home and apparently detected the heavy smell of natural gas.
A short time later, they put out an urgent call for an ambulance for an unconscious person and asked for firefighters. Ambulance personnel were at the scene for about 30 minutes but left without transporting anyone.
Officers obtained Aaron Schaffhausen’s cell phone number and were able to get an approximate location in the area through the service provider. At 4:45 p.m. a sheriff’s dispatcher told officers the suspect had turned himself in.
Police are still investigating exactly how the girls died and what might have led up to the killings.
“It’s certainly the worst that we’ve seen,” Leque said of the crime.
Leque did not elaborate when asked if there were signs of a struggle, saying authorities were still processing the crime scene.
It’s also unclear what may have led up to the incident. Leque said police were called to the house in 2009 for a domestic incident, but he
didn’t have any details. Leque said police records also show what he called a “harassment incident” in March 2012, in which the father threatened to harm at least one of the girls. Leque said police were unaware of any restraining or protection order.
Court records indicate the couple filed a joint petition for divorce in August 2011. The divorce was finalized in January, and the couple had joint legal custody of children, although Jessica Schaffhausen had primary physical custody and had control over health care, education and other decisions.
Public records indicate Jessica Schaffhausen continued to live at the home 2790 Morningside Ave. The couple had bought the large two-story home in 2007 for $248,000.
Aaron Schaffhausen will be arraigned in circuit court at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Neighbor Heather Johnson said the girls were happy, sweet girls who played with her 8-year-old son, Blake Patrow. She said Amara liked to skateboard and play soccer, and Sophie participated in martial arts and Girl Scouts.
She said Blake and Sophie were in the same elementary school class, and Blake has been clingy and doesn’t want to sleep alone after learning his friends are gone.
“He doesn’t like that he’s not going to see his friends anymore,” she said.
The River Falls (Wis.) Journal and the News Tribune are Forum Communications Co. newspapers. The Associated Press contributed to this report.