February 11, 2016

Insanity plea in River Falls child murders

A crucial plea has been entered and accepted, in a horrific crime in western Wisconsin. Aaron Schaffhausen is charged in the deaths of his daughters – ages 11, 8, and 5 — during a visit to their River Falls home last summer. On Thursday in St. Croix County Circuit Court, Shaffhausen entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Andy Rathbun, a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, was in the courtroom where Schaffhausen, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, appeared before Judge Howard Cameron . “He was stoic, he only said “yes” when asked by the judge to confirm the plea” Rahthbun said. “Other than that, he didn’t say anything, didn’t express any emotion.”

The 35 year-old Schaffhausen had been divorced from the girls’ mother for about six months, and was living in Minot, North Dakota. Prosecutors allege he killed Amara, Sophie, and Cecilia during a visit to the girls’ home July 10.

“If he is convicted, the trial will go into a second phase, at which point mental health experts will testify, and the defense will try to prove that his mental health at the time of the killings makes him not responsible,” explained Rathbun.

The assistant state attorney general who’s prosecuting the case has requested that the defense turn over all notes and tests relating to Schaffhausen’s mental state. The judge is scheduled to rule on that January 31st.


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