Mother of Girls: Schaffhausen was 'Catatonically Depressed'

Updated: 04/08/2013 11:33 AM By: Jennie Olson

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

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.

The jury has been sent home for the day and will return at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Jessica Schaffhausen Testimony

Schaffhausen's ex-wife, Jessica Schaffhausen, testified Wednesday afternoon. A judge ruled the media would not be allowed to photograph or record audio of her testimony.

When Jessica Schaffhausen was shown a photograph of the girls, she started crying and said "(They're) my babies."

She said during the trial that she met Aaron Schaffhausen in a coffee shop and he was flunking school at the time. She said he was a happy person "at times" and that his personality never drastically changed.

She also said her husband dropped out of school, and his excuse was "he was feeling anxious about it and depressed, and I told him that he needed to get help, that he couldn't keep going on like this."

She said she tried to get him into counseling two different times over 12 years; he went twice. A doctor diagnosed him as depressed and prescribed medication. Before he started taking the medications she described him as "catatonically depressed" but said he started getting a little better in May-June 2011.

During her testimony, Jessica Schaffhausen said her husband wasn't helping with chores and was playing video games for eight hours or more. She also said, "I would see him drinking every day, when I would see him." She alleged he wasn't taking care of the kids.

Jessica Schaffhausen also said the topic of divorce would come up, and she told him at the time that things needed to change or else they would get a divorce. She said she couldn't continue to do everything in the house and that she was trying to get him to save their marriage.

The Schaffhausens eventually filed for divorce in August 2011. Aaron Schaffhausen would come stay with the girls every other weekend when he was in the area, and Jessica Schaffhausen would stay somewhere else. She said in November 2011 he would call her a lot but wouldn't talk to the girls. She said he would sometimes call her phone 30 times in a row.

Aaron Schaffhausen Police Interview

Wednesday, jurors also reviewed a three-hour taped police interview conducted with Aaron Schaffhausen the day he allegedly killed his three daughters.

He can be seen crying in the video as he's being advised of his rights. Officers continued to question him for several minutes to make sure he understood his rights, but he remained silent.

As the video hit the two hour mark, Aaron Schaffhausen was still sitting in silence. In the final hour of the video, he broke down crying as an investigator asked him about tucking the girls into their beds.

He shook his head and said "no" when investigators asked, "Should police be looking for someone else?" He then told investigators that the handcuffs were too tight.

As questioning continued Aaron Schaffhausen told the investigator, "I don't know what I want; I don't know what I need. I want my girls back; I want a lot of things. Can you give them to me? Then quit offering the world like you have the keys." He later said, "I need help."

Initial 911 Call

On Tuesday jurors listened to a 40-minute 911 call made by Jessica Schaffhausen. 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 Tuesday 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 Aaron 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 be released at some point.