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Schaffhausen charged in murder of daughters

A man charged with murder in the deaths of his three young daughters in a gruesome incident at a River Falls residence July 10 made an initial appearance in St. Croix County Circuit Court late last week.

Aaron Schaffhausen, 34, Minot, N.D., is charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in deaths of Amara 11, Sophie, 8, and Cecilia, 5.

An autopsy report from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office said Amara and Sophie died from sharp force injuries to the right side of their necks. Cecilia died from a sharp force injury to the neck and strangulation.

"They're throats were slit," said District Attorney Eric Johnson in a press conference following the July 12 proceedings. "We believed the murder weapon was a knife."

Johnson asked for $2 million cash bail. He said it was the largest amount he had ever requested. "I have been a prosecutor for 30 years and this is the worst case I've seen," Johnson said.

The court record shows Schaffhausen refused to sign the bond.

Schaffhausen did not enter the courtroom. He made a video appearance from the jail. He was represented by public defender John Kucinski who didn't protest the amount. He reserved the right to request a bond hearing for his client later and asked for a preliminary hearing July 24.

Judge Howard W. Cameron set bond and scheduled the hearing for two hours at 10 a.m. July 24. Schaffhausen has been held in the St. Croix County Jail since his arrest July 10.

The sheriff's department said Schaffhausen is under suicide watch and in solitary confinement.

Johnson said his office was done with evidentiary proceedings and was ready to release the bodies of the three girls. Kucinski said he had just received the criminal complaint and there were, "too many evidentiary issues," and he couldn't agree to the release of the bodies.

The sheriff's office said as of Tuesday afternoon they had not been release. A memorial service for the Schaffhausen family was scheduled from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at Kilkarney Hills Golf Club.

At 3:45 p.m. July 10, River Falls Police were called to 2790 Morningside Ave., on the northeast edge of the city after Jessica Schaffhausen contacted the department and said her ex-husband, the father of her three children, telephoned her he "killed the kids," the criminal complaint said.

Police found the three children, each in their own bed with blankets covering their bodies and neck lines. An investigator smelled raw gasoline in the basement flowing from a tipped over container.

Jessica received a text message from Aaron at 11:45 a.m., whom she thought was working construction in Minot, N.D. He said he was in St. Paul and wanted to spend time with the girls. She agreed but said he must leave by 3:30 p.m. because she didn't want to see him.

A babysitter with the girls said Aaron arrived about 1:25 p.m. She said goodbye to them at 2:40 p.m., according to the complaint.

Police said Schaffhausen drove to the department and turned himself in but remained silent.

He said little during the initial hearing except when prompted by the judge to respond. Kucinski spoke for his client in most instances.

Kucinski filed a right to remain silent with the court on behalf of his client July 13 whereby Schaffhausen invokes his 5th and 6th Amendment Rights to remain silent regarding all enforcement officers and their agents.

Kucinski became the attorney of record Schaffhausen Monday according to a public defender order appointing counsel.

The Wisconsin Attorney General's office will prosecute the case by invitation of the district attorney, said Dana Brueck, a spokesperson for the AG's office in Madison.

RFPD asked for the public's assistance in a search for a laptop computer and computer bag believed to be Schaffhausen's and possibly ditched along the road before he turned himself in. The items include a Sony VAIO laptop and a Targus laptop bag. Police believe Schaffhausen was driving a metallic blue 2012 Chevrolet Cruze.

St. Croix County Chief Deputy Scott Knudson said six members of his department and investigators from Pierce County were assisting RFPD police in the case. "It's a multi-jurisdictional effort that is working well," he said.