MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin prosecutors charged a North Dakota man Thursday with killing his three young daughters, who were found tucked in to their beds.
Aaron Schaffhausen, 34, faces three counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Each count carries a mandatory life sentence.
St. Croix County Circuit Judge Howard W. Cameron set Schaffhausen’s bail at $2 million Thursday and ordered him to have no contact with the girls’ mother or her immediate family. Schaffhausen’s attorney, listed in online court records as public defender John Kucinski, didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message left at his office.
Autopsy results showed that 11-year-old Amara Schaffhausen, 8-year-old Sophie Schaffhausen and 5-year-old Cecilia Schaffhausen died from “sharp force injury” to the neck. Cecilia had also been strangled, according to the complaint.
Court records show the mother, Jessica Schaffhausen, and Aaron Schaffhausen divorced this past January. He lived in Minot while the girls lived with their mother in River Falls, a city of 15,000 about 30 miles east of the Twin Cities, in a house they rented from Aaron Schaffhausen, according to a criminal complaint.
Investigators wrote in the complaint that Jessica Schaffhausen thought her ex-husband was working a construction job in Minot when he texted her just before noon Tuesday and asked for an unplanned visit with the girls.
A Minneapolis Star Tribune report said Aaron Schaffhausen was fired from his job on July 5 after he failed to show up for work.
The mother agreed, but told him to be gone by mid-afternoon because she didn’t want to see him.
The girls’ baby sitter told detectives the girls were so excited to see him when he arrived they rushed to him and took him upstairs to show him their things. The baby sitter hugged the girls goodbye and left, the complaint said.
About two hours later, Aaron Schaffhausen called his ex-wife.
“You can home now because I killed the kids,” Jessica Schaffhausen said he told her.
She immediately called police, who found no one home upon arrival. They discovered the girls tucked into their beds, blankets up their necks, and all three had what appeared to be dried blood on their faces. A large amount of blood also covered the carpet in a bedroom.
Officers detected an odor they thought at first was natural gas. They discovered a gasoline container had been tipped over in the basement, spilling its contents.
An hour after he contacted his ex-wife, Aaron Schaffhausen drove into the River Falls Police Station parking lot and surrendered. Officers noted his shorts were stained with what appeared to be blood. Detectives tried to interview him but he said nothing, according to the complaint.
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