HUDSON, Wis. - Opening statements are underway in the insanity trial of a man who admitted last week that he killed his three daughters in their River Falls home.
Thirty-five-year-old Aaron Schaffhausen pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of his daugthers 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia, but he maintains he is not responsible because of a mental illness.
Lead defense attorney John Kucinski is painting Schaffhausen as man who once had it all but slowly slid into depression and alcoholism, reports KARE 11's Boua Xiong, who is in the St. Croix County courtroom.
Kucinski says Schaffhausen and his ex-wife met in college in Mankato and married when Jessica became pregnant unexpectedly. Jessica continued with school while Aaron went to work. They had two more kids. Defense says Aaron's behavior became erratic-he was in and out of jobs. He tried to school at the University of Wisconsin River Falls but quit.
The defense says the defendant's depression got so bad that Schaffhausen would call his wife several times a day and threaten her, at one point saying "Jessica, I want to tie you up and chose which of our girls should die so you can understand pain that I feel."
Gary Freyberg, Wisconsin's assistant attorney general, told jurors Tuesday that Aaron Schaffhausen was driven by a desire for revenge against his ex-wife, and decided killing the girls was the best way to punish her.
Freyberg used his opening statement to reject the idea that Schaffhausen couldn't control his emotions or actions. He insists Schaffhausen planned the killings, brought the tool he used to cut his daughters' throats with him from North Dakota and tried to get rid of evidence.
If Schaffhausen is found sane, he could go to prison for life. If the jury finds he was not responsible, he could be committed to a psychiatric institution and possibly released someday.
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