Did Schaffhausen make a 'conscious choice' or act 'as if in a dream?'

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

On day one of Aaron Schaffhausen's insanity trial jurors heard differing depictions of the man who has admitted killing his three young daughters in their River Falls, Wisc., home last summer.

His defense attorney says Schaffhausen's mental illness made him unaware of what he was doing, while prosecutors argue he made a deliberate decision to inflict pain on his ex-wife.

During opening statements Tuesday, the defense argued that Schaffhausen doesn't remember what happened when the three girls - who were 11, 8, and 5 - were stabbed to death.

"He describes it as if it's kind of a dream," Schaffhausen's attorney John Kucinski said.

Kucinski says his client had become increasingly depressed as his marriage deteriorated and before the killings he had stopped taking the antidepressants prescribed for him.

Lead prosecutor Gary Freyberg says Schaffhausen knew exactly what he was doing and made a conscious choice to kill the girls as a way to punish his ex-wife, Jessica.

Freyberg described how Schaffhausen cut the throats of the three girsl, then telephoned his wife to tell her he had killed them.

The centerpiece of the afternoon for jurors was the chilling 40-minute recording of Jessica Schaffhausen's subsequent call to 911. Dispatcher Aileen Splittgerber stayed on the phone with Schaffhausen as the mother drove from her job in St Paul to her home in River Falls.

WCCO reports Aaron Schaffhausen remained expressionless as the court listened to his ex-wife weeping, pleading, and hyperventilating on the tape.

In addition to testimony from Splittgerber, jurors heard from the babysitter who left the home when Aaron Schaffhausen arrived.

Schaffhausen pleaded guilty to the killing of 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia last week. Now, the court is focusing on his state of mind. The jury's verdict will determine whether he is sentenced to prison or a mental institution.

Audio of Jessica Schaffhausen's 911 call is below but bear in mind its intensity may be disturbing to some listeners.

Next Up

Related