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Schaffhausen appears in young girls' murder case

Aaron Schaffhausen

A man accused in the deaths of his three young daughters in a gruesome incident at a River Falls residence last Tuesday made his initial appearance in St. Croix County Circuit Court Thursday afternoon.

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.

"Their throats were slit," said District Attorney Eric Johnson in a press conference following the proceedings. He 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.

Schaffhausen did not enter the courtroom. He appeared by video from the jail. He was represented by public defender John Kucinski who said he would request a bond hearing for his client later and asked for a preliminary hearing July 24.

Judge Howard W. Cameron set 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.

Johnson said his office was done with evidentiary proceedings 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 but would move in an expeditious manner to do so.

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 and the father of her children said he killed their children, 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 1:40 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.