Posted at: 04/05/2013 8:57 AM
Updated at: 04/05/2013 7:00 PM
By: Maricella Miranda
Some of the first positive testimony about Aaron Schaffhausen came Friday from a long-time friend and former coworker. Schaffhausen has admitted to killing his three daughters last July at his ex-wife's house in River Falls, Wis.
Joe Rollag described Schaffhausen as an "excellent, hard-worker," a great friend and very intelligent. The friends have known each other for about two years, and worked together for about a year starting in August 2011, Rollag testified.
Schaffhausen was not an aggressive person, Rollag said in the beginning of his testimony. He also called Schaffhausen "social."
But the prosecution questioned Rollag's remarks, comparing them to previous police interviews where Rollag had said that Schaffhausen made threats against his ex-wife and her new boyfriend.
"What I said may or may not have actually been true," Rollag testified. Rollag said he was on medication when police questioned him about the killings.
Rollag testified that Schaffhausen's work began to suffer in February 2012. Schaffhausen sometimes would cry in his van alone, or sit there with a blank stare, Rollag said.
While talking to his ex-wife, Schaffhausen sometimes was "calm and collected," Rollag said. Other times he was "angry and aggressive," Rollag testified.
Schaffhausen, 35, has pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree intentional homicide, but he maintains he is not responsible for his daughters' killings because of mental illness.
On July 10, 2012, Schaffhausen reportedly killed his daughters, 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie, and 5-year-old Cecilia. The jury trial in St. Croix County District Court is to determine Schaffhausen's sanity at the time of the killings.
Rollag also testified about police coming to their home in Minot, ND., looking for Schaffhausen before the killings happened. Schaffhausen's ex-wife, Jessica, called police to report that Schaffhausen was threatening her on the phone. Rollag said he didn't hear Schaffhausen threatening her or the children.
Schaffhausen make threats toward his ex-wife's new boyfriend, Rollag said.
Rollag also said that Schaffhausen was taking the antidepressant Celexa, as well as other antipsychotic drugs.
Threats Against Family
Other former coworkers testified that Schaffhausen had talked about killing his family several times before the killing happened.
Coworkers Jon Paul and Jeremy Michaels testified that they were playing cards with Schaffhausen when Schaffhausen said he wanted to kill his ex-wife, the man she was dating and Schaffhausen's children.
Michaels, who briefly lived with Schaffhausen before the killings, said he told Schaffhausen that talking like that was crazy and weird. Schaffhausen then replied, "Is it really?"
Schaffhausen also told Michaels, "I'll pay you to kill her," Michaels testified. "If she were gone, his problems would be gone," Michaels said regarding the conversation.
Paul, who also lived with the men in May and June 2012 in Minot, ND., testified that Schaffhausen said he didn't want to get divorced from his ex-wife. He talked about killing his wife and kids about five or six times while drinking and not drinking, Paul said.
Paul told Schaffhausen he was sick of hearing the comments, Paul testified. Then Schaffhausen asked Paul, "How much would it cost for you to do it for me?"
When Paul heard on the news that the children had died possibly from gas poisoning, Paul testified that he called police to report Schaffhausen's threats.
"...I knew it wasn't an accident," Paul said.
While living together, Michaels said Schaffhausen attacked him with a broom, holding the handle down on his neck and bear hugging Michaels to the ground for talking about his ex-wife.
"He just kept saying, 'Don't ever talk about Jess,'" Michaels testified.
Schaffhausen's Depression in 2011
Dr. Paul McMillan, a family practice physician, testified earlier Friday that Schaffhausen's depression was "minor" and had been "improving" in 2011 - before the killings July 10, 2012.
McMillan is a family practice physician in River Falls. He evaluated and treated Schaffhausen several times for depression in 2011.
During questioning from the prosecution, McMillan testified that he never saw any problems with Schaffhausen related to his cognition and ability to think clearly.
McMillan advised Schaffhausen to go to counseling. His last visit with McMillan was November 2011. McMillan described Schaffhausen's depression as "mild" and "improving."
A social worker also testified about two counseling sessions that Schaffhausen had in 2011.
On Thursday, the girls' mother, Jessica Schaffhausen, continued testimony in the trial. Her testimony revealed a history of threatening behavior from Aaron Schaffhausen.
Read earlier coverage of the trial here at KSTP.com.
The trial will resume Monday at 8:30 a.m. Expected testimonies include a court-appointed medical expert and Schaffhausen family members.