Posted at: 04/08/2013 8:51 AM
Updated at: 04/08/2013 6:09 PM
By: Jennie Olson
Warning: Article contains graphic content
Aaron Schaffhausen's trial is now in its second week.
Thirty-five-year-old Aaron Schaffhausen has pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree intentional homicide, but he maintains he is not responsible for the killings of 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie, and 5-year-old Cecilia because of a mental illness. The St. Croix County District Court trial is to determine his sanity.
Monday's witnesses included Roger Schaffhausen, the father of Aaron Schaffhausen; Suzanne Margaret Allen, the mother of Aaron Schaffhausen; and Dr. Ralph Baker, a medical expert.
Dr. Ralph Baker, who is the court-appointed medical expert, was called by the defense to testify about Aaron Schaffhausen's sanity. According to his testimony, Baker has done more than 1,500 evaluations and has been hired by courts, prosecutors and defense teams.
Baker said he interviewed Aaron Schaffhausen for more than three hours, saying he was "cooperative and friendly" but that he "looked depressed, acted depressed and has a history of depression." He said Aaron Schaffhausen was very lucid and coherent and gave a "very good history" compared to a number of other people he's seen.
Baker had asked Aaron Schaffhausen to tell him about the day of the murders. According to Baker, Aaron Schaffhausen said, "It was a spur-of-the-moment thing." Baker said he looked "very depressed and sad and tearful" during that moment.
Baker then recounted Aaron Schaffhausen's account of the murders. Aaron Schaffhausen said he gave the girls money for their piggy banks and talked to them about his plan to drive them down to the river. Cecilia couldn't find her shoes, so Aaron Schaffhausen told Baker he was helping her look for them. The next thing he knew, he said he was strangling her.
When Aaron Schaffhausen went down to the kitchen, Amara and Sophie reportedly came back inside and he heard Cecilia crying, so he knew she wasn't dead. According to the testimony, he then went to the kitchen, got a knife, and cut the three girls' throats.
He reportedly told Baker he planned to light the house on fire but decided not to do it.
Baker testified that he believes Aaron Schaffhausen may have obsessive compulsive traits and that he was fixated on or obsessed with Jessica Schaffhausen.
"I think he was very connected to her and dependent on her," Baker said.
Baker said he found Aaron Schaffhausen had "major depressive disorder" but didn't find him to be not guilty by reason of insanity.
Roger Schaffhausen testified Aaron Schaffhausen was the second oldest of four children. He said his son was difficult as a child but fairly normal. He testified Aaron Schaffhausen had trouble sleeping, was more sensitive to touch, and wasn't as "cuddly" as his first son.
He also recalled an incident in third grade where Aaron Schaffhausen got scared and ran out of school, adding that his son was bullied in fourth grade because he was the new kid.
According to Allen, her son didn't interact well with others and didn't have many friends. She said he was "exceedingly smart" but a "challenge," adding that he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder in third grade.
When asked about mental illness in the family, Roger Schaffhausen said there wasn't any history that he knew of on his side of the family. As for his ex-wife's side, Roger Schaffhausen testified she was diagnosed as borderline manic depressive, saying that she took Lithium, which is commonly used as a psychiatric medication, when they were separated.
"Aaron suffered from mental illness probably his whole childhood," Allen testified. Allen said she's been depressed and that her mother and sisters all suffered from depression and anxiety.
In his teenage years, Roger Schaffhausen said his son was rebellious, belligerent and was difficult at home. He also said his son had some trouble with the law, saying he once stole a gun and brought it to school. Aaron Schaffhausen spent time in Lino Lakes Detention Center, was arrested for shoplifting, stole money from a neighbor and was expelled from school for gang-related reasons, his father said.
Roger Schaffhausen said they also got into a physical altercation once.
Roger and Aaron Schaffhausen’s mother divorced when he was still in school. Allen said there were lots of disputes about money and that she was depressed much of the time during their marriage when Aaron Schaffhausen was a child.
She testified that Roger Schaffhausen never told Aaron Schaffhausen that he loved him and that it was hard for him to show affection.
When Aaron Schaffhausen was in his 20s, Allen said he was energetic, talented, easy-going, and fun-loving, but there was always an "undercurrent of sadness."
Roger Schaffhausen said he had a much better relationship with his son as an adult. After Aaron Schaffhausen married, Roger Schaffhausen said he would see him for regular family events.
"It seemed like the marriage was going well; the kids were happy," he said.
He said he had no concerns about Aaron Schaffhausen being a parent and that "he would play with them, do coloring and play some games with the girls.”
"He adored the children, and they loved him," Allen said, "He'd come home from work and the girls would run and scream, 'Daddy!' and jump in his arms. His face would just beam."
Roger Schaffhausen said his son showed the girls how to use a hammer when building a deck and showed them how he did his work. He was “very loving; he enjoyed their company, they enjoyed him," he said.
He also testified Aaron Schaffhausen enjoyed work and took pride in it.
Roger Schaffhausen said he grew concerned about Aaron Schaffhausen’s well-being in November 2011. When Aaron Schaffhausen was in Minot, N.D., he wouldn't return phone calls and would sometimes disappear without the family knowing where he was, his father said.
A family meeting prompted them to go find him in Minot. He said Aaron Schaffhausen was having a difficult time but they believed he was "dealing with it."
The family didn't see him again until early January 2012 when the divorce was finalized with Jessica Schaffhausen.
Roger Schaffhausen talked about phone calls he received from Aaron Schaffhausen in January and February. He recalled one that came in around 2 a.m. "He was very despondent, depressed, and sounded like he was almost weeping," he testified.
"He wanted to do terrible things to Jessica’s boyfriend and wanted to hurt the girls to show Jessica how much pain he was in," Roger Schaffhausen said. "He missed the girls, he missed the life that he had, and he wanted to get it back to how it was.”
Roger Schaffhausen called them "demons in his head" and told Aaron Schaffhausen to get help. He said his son eventually stopped talking and hung up.
The next time Roger Schaffhausen said he saw his son was during a visit in March. "We wanted to just have a normal visit," he said. "We didn't press any issues on the phone calls."
He said if they pushed him, he would get upset and they wouldn't hear anything from him for a while. When things were going poorly, they would usually hear from Aaron Schaffhausen’s ex-wife.
Roger Schaffhausen said there was little contact after March but thought "no news was good news." He first learned about the murders from Jessica Schaffhausen's mom.
Once the defense wraps up its case, the prosecution has 120 people on its list of witnesses.
There will also be security screenings for visitors and employees at the courthouse this week. A co-worker of Aaron Schaffhausen, identified as 31-year-old Joe Rollag, is charged with threatening a witness. He is also charged with possessing a switchblade knife, carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.
Read the criminal complaint here. WARNING: Graphic Content
Listen to the initial 911 call here. WARNING: Graphic Content
The Associated Press contributed to this report.