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Jurors in Schaffhausen Trial are Reviewing Taped Police Interview

Posted at: 04/02/2013 5:38 AM
Updated at: 04/03/2013 8:59 AM
By: Cassie Hart

The trial continues for the man who admitted to killing his three daughters last July at his ex-wife's River Falls, Wis. home.

Jurors are now reviewing a three hour taped police interview conducted with 35-year-old Aaron Schaffhausen the day he killed his three daughters. It's expected to be a difficult video to watch.

On Tuesday jurors listened to a 40-minute 911 call made by his ex-wife, Jessica Schaffhausen.

Aaron Schaffhausen has pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree intentional homicide, but he maintains he is not responsible for the killings because of a mental illness. The St. Croix County District Court trial is to determine his sanity.

The 911 call was played during the first day of witness testimony.

“I need somebody to go to (my house)," said Jessica Schaffhausen, the girls' mother, in the 911 call. "My husband just called me and told me he killed my kids.”

Aaron Schaffhausen was with his daughters, 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia that day in their River Falls home.

During testimony, the River Falls police dispatcher described Jessica Schaffhausen as "very upset" and "hyperventilating." The dispatcher, Ailene Splittgerber, stayed on the phone with her as she drove from the Twin Cities to River Falls after her ex-husband's call.

Hear the complete 911 call here.

Other testimony of the day included the children's babysitter, who last saw Aaron Schaffhausen with his daughters minutes before their killings.

A paramedic first on the scene and a police investigator also testified.

If Schaffhausen is found sane, he could go to prison for life. If the jury finds he was not responsible, he could be committed to a psychiatric institution and possibly released someday.

Prosecution's Opening Statements

Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Gary Freyberg said that Schaffhausen made a "conscious choice" to make his ex-wife suffer by killing their children last July in their home. Schaffhausen wanted to kill his children as revenge for his wife divorcing him, Freyberg said.

"He fantasized and rehearsed this deed," he said.

Schaffhausen, who moved to North Dakota following his divorce, traveled to Minnesota the day before the killings without telling his work, family or ex-wife. Once in Minnesota, Schaffhausen called his ex-wife, saying he was in the area for work.

Schaffhausen asked to see the children. His ex-wife agreed, but told him to leave the house before she returned at 4 p.m. A babysitter was home with the girls at the time, Freyberg said.

The babysitter, Fallon Moore, testified that the kids were very excited to see their father when he arrived.

The babysitter left the house shortly after Schaffhausen arrived at about 1:45 p.m. Moore told the jury there were no suspicious indicators or red flags regarding Schaffhausen's behavior.

When Moore left the home, Schaffhausen retrieved a duffel bag from his rental car, which had two knives inside it, Freyberg said.

At 3:41 p.m., Schaffhausen called his ex-wife and said "You can come home now. I killed the kids," Freyberg said.

She immediately called police, who went to the home. Inside, officers smelled gas. Upstairs, they found the girls dead, each in their beds with the covers pulled up to their chins, Freyberg said. A large pool of blood was found in Cecilia's bedroom, where the killings likely happened.

The girls' mother also sent two text messages to the babysitter, Moore said. The first message said, “He says he killed," and the second message said, "Them.”

Schaffhausen washed some of the girls' clothing, as well as his own, before leaving the house, Freyberg said. He also told police that he threw away a cell phone and laptop in dumpsters around the area.

The killings happened after a six-month period ended, allowing Schaffhausen and his ex-wife to remarry following their divorce, Freyberg said.

The prosecution argued that Schaffhausen's actions before and after the killings prove that he was mentally competent at the time.

Defense's Opening Statements

Schaffhausen's attorney John Kucinski called the murders a "horrible, tragic act" but blamed them on an "extremely rare and complex condition" that he says runs in the Schaffhausen family.

Kucinski then traced the events of the past several years through the prism of Schaffhausen's personality. Kucinski described Schaffhausen as a very bright, smart guy, who could become obsessive about certain things.

He argued that Schaffhausen became increasingly depressed as his marriage with his ex-wife fell apart, and that Schaffhausen became verbally abusive and threatening.

Kucinski said Schaffhausen's mental problems increased when he was prescribed antidepressants and that one medication made him "downright crazy," especially when he drank alcohol.

The defender said Schaffhausen described the day of the murders of his daughters as "a dream." Kucinski said, "Aaron wanted to clean them up, but the cuts were too deep. So he wrapped up their necks and put them in bed and kissed them."

Kucinski said Schaffhausen then remembers driving around and then turned himself in to police.

Testimony is expected from three psychologists who say Schaffhausen had a "major depression disorder," according to Kucinski.

He told the jury to keep an open mind and that no one is to blame for what happened.

First Day of Trial

On Monday, it took six hours of intense questioning from attorneys on both sides to select the jury, which includes nine women and six men. At this point, it's unclear which jurors are the three alternates.

The selection process of the jury included 105 potential jurors.

During the selection process some of the potential jurors answered that they could not be fair and impartial during the trial, considering the crimes Schaffhausen has admitted to.

Warning: The criminal complaint in this case contains graphic and disturbing content. Click here to read the criminal complaint.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.