HUDSON, Wis. (AP) — A man who admitted killing his three young daughters in western Wisconsin suffers from depression but is sane, a court-appointed psychiatrist testified as the second week of the suspect’s insanity trial got underway Monday.
Dr. Ralph Baker testified for the prosecution about his examination of Aaron Schaffhausen. After interviewing Schaffhausen for nearly four hours, Baker told jurors, he believes that Schaffhausen has major depression disorder but was not legally insane last July when he killed 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia at their house in River Falls.
Baker said Schaffhausen told him what happened at the house was a “spur of the moment thing,” KARE-TV reported. When Schaffhausen arrived at the house July 10, 2012, he gave the girls money to put in their piggy bank and talked about going to a park by the river, Baker said.
Cecilia, however, could not find her shoes and Schaffhausen said he tried to help her find them, Baker testified. The next thing he knew, Schaffhausen had his hands on her neck and was strangling her, Baker said.
Schaffhausen told Baker that Cecilia started crying and that’s when he got a knife from the kitchen and cut his girls’ throats, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
Baker said Schaffhausen told him he put the girls in their beds, kissed each on the forehead and said, “good night.” He told the doctor he spilled gasoline in the basement, but decided not to ignite it. Schaffhausen then drove around before turning himself in to police, Baker said.
Schaffhausen’s parents testified Monday about their son’s troubled childhood and mental health issues.
Roger Schaffhausen testified his son was a rebellious and belligerent teen who had some “run-ins with the law.” The elder Schaffhausen says his son stole a gun, brought it to high school and was expelled.
Aaron Schaffhausen’s mother, Sue Allen, testified that her son became extremely depressed when he and his wife, Jessica, broke up. She also testified that mental illness was an issue for other members of her family.
Allen told the court that Aaron Schaffhausen called her, distraught, about 3 a.m. one day in November 2011.
“I picked up the phone and I heard sobbing on the other end,” Allen said. “He was beside himself with despair.”
Devastated by the split, he was exceedingly depressed around that time, and family members drove to where he was living in Minot, N.D., to check on him, she said.
On Monday, a former co-worker of Schaffhausen’s who testified at his trial last week was charged with threatening a witness and bringing knives to the courthouse.
Joe Rollag, 31, was charged with one felony count of battery or threat to a witness. Rollag also was charged with misdemeanor counts of possessing a switchblade knife, carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.
A psychiatric nurse had contacted the dispatch center to say Rollag was at the St. Croix County Government Center and had made threats to harm prosecutors and witnesses involved in Schaffhausen’s trial, according to the criminal complaint.
According to the complaint, Rollag approached a deputy monitoring the metal detector at the government center Friday and said he needed to talk to Schaffhausen’s attorney. After the two went into a conference room, the deputy removed two knives from Rollag, the complaint said. A butterfly knife — a two-handled folding pocket knife — later was found on the floor of Rollag’s pickup in the government center parking lot, according to the complaint.
Sheriff John Shilts says security was stepped up Monday at the government center, with everyone being screened as they entered the courthouse.
Rollag remained in jail with bail set at $50,000.