Updated: 01/30/2014 12:05 PM
Created: 01/29/2014 6:34 PM KSTP.com
By: Stephen Tellier
A mother is recovering from the loss of her three daughters -- murdered by their own father.
Eighteen months after the crimes, Jessica Peterson -- formerly Jessica Schaffhausen -- is working to memorialize her girls while also bringing new life into the world.
On Friday, a judge ruled Aaron Schaffhausen owes Peterson more than $14,000 in restitution. But on Wednesday, Peterson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she doesn't expect to see that money -- and that she's focused on finances of a different kind.
"I miss the girls still a lot," Peterson said. "That's a pain I think I'll always carry. But I try to do it in a way that would make them proud of me, in much the way I would want them to carry on if they'd lost me."
And in that spirit, Peterson is determined to honor the memory of Amara, Sophie, and Cecilia.
"I really wanted to focus putting something positive back out there," Peterson said.
Thus, the idea for the Tri-Angels Playground was born, a space accessible for all children, regardless of ability.
"Something people could interact with and make their own memories, and in that way, keep my girls' memories alive," Peterson said.
Peterson -- along with friends, family, and the River Falls community -- has been fundraising for months, bringing in $247,000 so far. But the playground costs $550,000 to build. So she's asking others to help.
"To bring something back into this world to balance out the great evil that was done," Peterson said.
And she will soon accomplish that goal in a much more personal way.
"I am expecting another child, and I'm very excited about that," Peterson said.
She has re-married, and is seven months pregnant.
"The key to much of my life is this balancing dual emotions, having to always be a little sad and a little happy at the same time," Peterson said. "It definitely helps in my process of trying to keep going, to bring some more love back into this world."
Peterson said Bremer Bank is now matching all playground donations up to $50,000, and there are more fundraisers in the works. Peterson said she's hoping to have a ribbon-cutting for that playground in the spring or summer of next year.