Published July 15, 2013
HUDSON, Wis. – Just over a year after a Wisconsin man killed his three daughters to get back at his ex-wife, he was sentenced Monday to life in prison with no chance of parole.
A jury found in April that 35-year-old Aaron Schaffhausen was sane when he killed 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia at their River Falls home.
Schaffhausen had admitted he killed the girls in July 2012 to get back at his ex-wife, but argued he had a mental defect that kept him from knowing it was wrong.
Life sentences were mandatory in each girl's death, but Schaffhausen had the prospect of supervised release after at least 20 years in prison. That was rejected by St. Croix County Circuit Judge Howard Cameron.
In filings shortly before sentencing, prosecutors asked for consecutive life terms with no possibility of release, citing the nature of the killings and what they said was a lack of remorse. Defense attorneys argued that Schaffhausen suffers from mental illness.
Evidence showed that Schaffhausen texted his ex-wife on July 10, 2012, to ask for an unscheduled visit with the girls. She consented but said he had to be gone before she got home because she didn't want to see him. The girls' baby sitter told investigators the children were excited when he arrived, and the sitter left.
He called his ex-wife, Jessica Schaffhausen, about two hours later, saying: "You can come home now, I killed the kids."
Police arrived to find the girls lying in their beds, their throats slit and their blankets pulled up to their necks. White T-shirts were tied around their necks. Cecilia's body also showed signs of strangulation.
Trial testimony showed that in the months leading up to the killings, Schaffhausen told several people he had thoughts of killing his daughters. His ex-wife testified that in March 2012, he called her from Minot, N.D. — where he was working — and told her he "wanted to drive down there and tie me up and make me pick which child he killed and make me watch while he killed them."
He also called his ex-wife repeatedly, sometimes up to 30 times a day, and threatened to kill the man she was dating.
Schaffhausen didn't testify at his trial. His defense attorney argued at trial that Schaffhausen has a rare mental disorder rooted in deep dependency on his ex-wife, and believed the only way he could "solve" his problem was to commit suicide or homicide. The jury rejected his insanity defense.