Schaffhausen testimony on depression, mindset after murders - KMSP-TV

SCHAFFHAUSEN TRIAL: Depression, video game addiction, post-murder phone call

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Jessica Schaffhausen resumed her testimony Thursday in the triple murder trial of her ex-husband, Aaron Schaffhausen, who has admitted killing the couple's three daughters but claims he was not responsible due to mental illness.


Testimony began Thursday asking Jessica Schaffhausen about her ex-husbands depression, for which he started taking the antidepressant Celexa around June of 2011 -- 13 months before the murders.

"He wasn't interacting with us or participating much," Jessica Schaffhausen said, adding he would just play video games for "hours and hours."

After going on the medication, she said he "started participating more, doing more around the house."

Initially, the medication had positive effects, unless he drank. Then, "it made him really weird."

"You couldn't tell he was drunk. He didn't slur his words," Jessica Schaffhausen said. "He'd just say really off-the-wall things."

She also told jurors that Aaron Schaffhausen's video game addiction was a constant that she tried to learn to live with.

"Very early on in the marriage I had to accept I was the one who was going to do the majority of work around the house," she said.

But had she ever seen Aaron Schaffhausen being abusive with girls?

"No," she said. "If anything he was just neglectful -- shut off."

If there was a choice between kids and video games, "he'd be playing a video game."

Did he love the kids? Yes, she said. But did he ever not love the kids?

"I think July 10th kind of cured him of that," Jessica Schaffhausen said.

At one point, Jessica Schaffhausen had written a letter to her husband in an attempt to save the marriage. She described the intent as "really trying to make things work, telling him things that I loved about him, hoping that he was going to change."

Yet, she says he never did. Instead, he played "World of Warcraft" and paid no attention to her or his children.

"Day after day, it would be the same thing," Jessica Schaffhausen testified. "I would go to work and take the kids to day care. I'd give him a list of things to get done that day. I'd get home and they wouldn't be done."


Divorce papers were jointly filed in August 2011, but Jessica Schaffhausen said that by October, Aaron Schaffhausen had begun calling her repeatedly in the middle of the night, yelling and swearing.

When asked what Aaron Schaffhausen would do when one of his daughter's answered the phone, Jessica Schaffhausen said, "He would hang up."

"They were really hurt," she said of her children.

Jessica Schaffhausen said she had fights with her ex-husband over his lack of contact with their children, saying he showed no interest in them and only wanted to see her -- but she didn't want to see him because it made her uncomfortable. 

"I didn't want him in the house with me," she said.

She also explained that during the autumn months, he would occasionally stay at the home with the girls while she would stay elsewhere. Once he moved to North Dakota for work in October, Jessica Schaffhausen said he stopped talking to their children; however, he would sometimes call her up to 30 times a day to harass her.

In March 2012, Aaron Schaffhausen threatened to come to the house, tie her up and kill one of the girls in front of her so she would feel the pain he felt. That conversation prompted a nearly 12-minute phone call from the River Falls Police Department.

The call was played in court. In it, a defensive Aaron Schaffhausen can be heard explaining that he was upset.

"If you knew my background, I think you would understand," he told the investigating officer.

When asked whether or not he considered himself a danger to himself or others, Aaron Schaffhausen immediately replied, "No."

"I have dark thoughts, but the thing is, they're dark thoughts," Aaron Schaffhausen said. "You know, the thing is, I might as well fantasize about dragons -- and you're calling me concerning like, 'Hey wait a minute, are you thinking about dragons? Because really, in this society, I don't need a dragon to be produced in a society.'"

He went on to ask the officer if she knew what he meant, and the officer replied that she didn't.

In April, Aaron Schaffhausen called to say he wanted to come over and visit the girls while they were asleep.

"I told him no, that it was creepy and the girls wouldn't get anything out of it," Jessica Schaffhausen said. "If he wanted to see the girls, they should get to see him too."

Jessica Schaffhausen said she allowed him to remain a part of their lives because it was important to her daughters.

"They really missed him and really wanted to see him. They loved him so much," she said through tears. '

Even so, she admitted that she feared leaving the girls alone with him because she worried he would forget to feed them or put them to bed on time.

While still on the stand, Jessica Schaffhausen said her ex-husbands neglectful behavior hurt the children. During an interview with police, she had told investigators he had no empathy and that was an ongoing problem in their marriage.

"From the very beginning," she said. "Always very hard for him to be able to think about how other people feel."

Yet, in the months before the slaying, Jessica Schaffhausen said he had changed his tone. Especially in May and June, Aaron Schaffhausen began acting more civil and showed more interest in their children. She testified that she thought he was moving on and therefore felt more comfortable letting him see their daughters.


When Aaron Schaffhausen called Jessica on July 10, 2012, telling her that he was in the Twin Cities and wanted to come see the girls, she "was very flustered."

"I had no idea he was in the Cities," she said. "I tend to be a planned-out person and don't like my plans altered at the last minute. He wanted to see me and I didn't want to see him."

The call from Aaron later that day came as Jessica was getting into her car to come home.

"He told me I could come home now because he killed the kids," she said. "I started yelling at him, that wasn't funny, and he couldn't say things like that. He made some noise, then he hung up the phone."


Jessica Schaffhausen told police investigators that Aaron Schaffhausen was "obsessed" with her.

"He was used to me taking care of everything for him and I just couldn't do it anymore," she said.

Defense attorney John Kucinski asked whether she had described him as completely irrational and crazy to police.

"Yes. He just murdered my children," she replied.

However, she continued on to say everything Aaron Schaffhausen had done in the month or so prior to the murders gave her the impression he loved the children, so what was her mindset as reality set-in?

"I was living in the reality that I no longer had children," she said.

When asked what she thought he wanted at time of murders, she replied, "He wanted me to come back and be his wife again and take care of him.

Aaron had told her his whole world revolved around her -- "that I'm more like a mom to him than a wife" -- and that he felt she'd abandoned him.

"He wanted me to come back and be his wife again and take care of him," she said.


If Schaffhausen is found mentally fit, he could go to prison for life. If the jury finds he was not responsible due to mental illness, he could be committed to a psychiatric institution and possibly be released at some point.

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