SCHAFFHAUSEN VERDICT: Jury finds father responsible in murders - KMSP-TV

SCHAFFHAUSEN VERDICT: Jury says father has mental defect, still responsible

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HUDSON, Wis. (KMSP) -

After beginning deliberations on Tuesday afternoon, the jury returned a verdict saying even though Aaron Schaffhausen suffers a mental defect, he is still responsible for the murders of his three daughters.

Schaffhausen, 35, pled guilty to killing 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia in their River Falls, Wis., home last summer. He also pled guilty to one count of attempted arson; however, his defense contended that he could not be held legally responsible due to mental illness.

The jury was tasked with deciding whether Schaffhausen suffered from mental defect or disease at the time of the slayings, and although they found that he did, they did not believe he met the legal requirement for insanity because he knew right from wrong at the time.

Deliberation began just after 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon and the jury returned their verdict shortly before 6 p.m.

The verdict means Schaffhausen will spend life in prison instead of a mental treatment facility; however, the defense has vowed to file an appeal of the verdict.

According to Schaffhausen's attorney, John Kucinski, the appeal would be based on the claims that Judge Howard Cameron instructed the jury on motive when it was not relevant and that Cameron should not have denied the jury's request to have expert reports in the room during deliberation.

In his closing argument earlier on Tuesday, Kucinski told jurors that Schaffhausen has a rare mental disorder rooted in a deep dependency on his wife that caused him to believe the only way to "solve" his problem was through suicide or homicide. The prosecution disagreed.

"These children did not have to die. They died because their father made a choice," Freyberg said. "He chose to kill them and betray everything that a parent stands for because he was jealous and angry."

Kucinski had cited a defense expert who testified that the crime was a case of "catathymic homicide," and sought to use testimony detailing months of expressing desire to kill his daughters as proof.

"There is nobody involved in this case that deserves an iota of blame because they could not know how ill his mind is," Kucinski said. "None of this is anybody's fault ... you just look at the guy and he doesn't look as sick as he is."


Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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