Jessica Schaffhausen's Testimony Reveals Threats from Ex-Husband
The trial of the man who admitted to killing his three daughters last July at his ex-wife's River Falls, Wis., home will continue Friday.
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.
His ex-wife, Jessica Schaffhausen, continued her testimony Thursday. Her testimony revealed a history of threatening behavior from Aaron Schaffhausen.
Defense also called Officer Elizabeth Posel with the River Falls Police Department to the stand Thursday. Posel made contact with Aaron Schaffhausen after Jessica Schaffhausen reported a threatening phone call on March 7, 2012.
Watch raw video of the police phone call played during the trial here.
Also on the stand Thursday was Jarrod Klein who lived with Aaron Schaffhausen in North Dakota. According to Klein's testimony, Aaron Schaffhausen had made comments about "offing" his family and that "he couldn't care less if he never saw his [expletive] kids again."
Harassing Phone Calls
Jessica Schaffhausen picked up her testimony by talking about the many phone calls and messages she started receiving from Aaron Schaffhausen in November of 2011. She testified there were anywhere from a few calls up to 30 in a row.
Jessica Schaffhausen said she told Aaron Schaffhausen it was harassment and that she would have to get a restraining order if he didn't stop. She said some conversations were upsetting because they weren't even conversations -- he would just call over and over again so she couldn't use her phone.
She said he refused to speak to the kids and just wanted to go over the same things over and over again, "The ups and downs of our marriage."
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.
She said she was waiting for Aaron Schaffhausen to become more stable, from an employment perspective, before getting the divorce.
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 the divorce was finalized Jan. 9, 2012.
During her testimony, Jessica Schaffhausen said she had been seeing someone else and told Aaron Schaffhausen about it. She said, "Initially there were a lot of sarcastic jokes about it, and then when I wouldn't share every detail about it with him he was angry, jealous."
She testified Aaron Schaffhausen called the mother of the man she was dating to threaten and harass them. After she told him to stop, there were a few incidents and then the harassment toward the man and his family stopped, she said.
The relationship ended in February 2012.
Aaron Schaffhausen's Relationship with the Girls
When asked if her husband loved the kids, Jessica Schaffhausen replied "Yes." Then she was asked if he ever "not loved" the kids. She replied, "I think July 10 kind of proved that."
She also testified that there were times when she would worry about Aaron Schaffhausen taking care of the kids alone. She was worried about him remembering to feed them and getting them to bed on time.
Aaron Schaffhausen stopped having contact with the girls in May 2012 but resumed some contact in June 2012, Jessica Schaffhausen said in her testimony. She said there were no threats and that the conversations were friendly. He told her he was doing better, had stopped drinking, and was "moving on," she said. He also told her he had a Match.com profile and talked about wanting to be part of the girls' lives.
During her testimony, she was asked about her perception of how Aaron Schaffhausen viewed the kids. "Everything he'd done for the last part of June up until that point made me think that he loved them and he wanted to see them," she said. The defense reminded her that she said something different to police, "but that would be after he murdered my children and I was trying to deal with the fact that I was living in a reality that I no longer had children," she replied.
"He wouldn't say he had children; he would say, 'I have a family,'" Jessica Schaffhausen said during her testimony. "He wanted the whole package."
When talking to police after the murders, Jessica Schaffhausen said, "[Aaron Schaffhausen] wanted me to come back and be his wife again and take care of him .... his whole world revolved around me and that I had been more like a mom to him than a wife."
Threatening Phone Call
In March of 2012, Jessica Schaffhausen said Aaron Schaffhausen wasn't having much contact with the kids and was using other people's phones to call so she wouldn't recognize the phone numbers.
She testified she received a call from Aaron Schaffhausen on March 7 while she was at work.
She said, "He told me he wanted to drive down there and tie me up and make me pick which child he killed and make me watch while he killed them, because he wanted to hurt me as much I'd hurt him. He said, 'I think about these things eight times a day. What am I supposed to do with these thoughts?' And I told him that's why he needed to get into therapy."
Jessica Schaffhausen said she called the police and filed a report regarding the phone call.
July 10, 2012
On July 10, 2012, the day of the murders, Jessica Schaffhausen said Aaron Schaffhausen called her to say he was in the Twin Cities and that he wanted to see her and the kids. She said, "just the girls," which made him upset and say "forget it." He later called again and said he would see the girls, according to Jessica Schaffhausen's testimony.
She said they agreed that he could come see them at the house and take them somewhere as long as they were home by 8:30 or 9 p.m. She said she let him see the girls because "they really missed him and wanted to see him ... they loved him so much."
That afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., Jessica Schaffhausen said her ex-husband "called me and he told me that I could come home now because he had killed the kids. I started yelling at him that that wasn't funny and he couldn't say things like that."
He then hung up the phone and she immediately called police, according to her testimony. She remained on the phone with them until she got to River Falls.
"I just wanted somebody to get there because they could have still been alive, so somebody needed to get to the house," she said.
During her initial conversation with police, Jessica Schaffhausen testified that she had described Aaron Schaffhausen has "psychotic...truly irrational...crazy." She also told police that she thought her ex-husband killed the kids to hurt her.
When questioned about those phrases, Jessica Schaffhausen said she didn't mean it as a mental diagnosis but rather in a "slang way."
Treatment for Depression
In her testimony, Jessica Schaffhausen said Aaron Schaffhausen had been taking Celexa, which is used to treat depression, at one point. She didn't know when he stopped taking it.
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.
Jessica Schaffhausen told police that Aaron Schaffhausen had "no empathy" and "it was always very hard for him to think about how other people feel."
Aaron Schaffhausen Police Interview
Wednesday, jurors 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.
To read the criminal complaint, click here. WARNING: Graphic content
Stay with KSTP.com for updates on this developing story.
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