RIVER FALLS, Wis. - A vigil is planned Wednesday night for the three young sisters found dead in their home in River Falls.
Authorities on Wednesday morning identified the young victims as 11-year-old Amara Schaffhausen, 8-year-old Sophie Schaffhausen, and their younger sister Cecilia Lee Schaffhausen, age five.
A St. Croix Sheriff's Deputy told KARE 11 earlier that the girls' father, 34-year-old Aaron Schaffhausen, had been charged with three counts of first degree intentional homicide. A source within the St. Croix County Attorney's told us Schaffhausen was expected to make a video appearance in court Wednesday afternoon for a bond hearing but he did not appear.
Authorities generally have 48 hours from the time a suspect is arrested to either charge or release.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon River Falls Police Chief Roger Leque said the suspect called his ex-wife Tuesday afternoon and told her he had harmed the children.
Aaron Schaffhausen turned himself in at police headquarters. Chief Leque describes the suspect as quiet and unemotional.
The bodies of the Schaffhausen girls were found Tuesday afternoon when police were asked by their mother to check on their welfare. Officers say there was an odor of gas when they entered the house.
Court records show Aaron Schaffhausen and the girls' mother were divorced last year. Police say they had been called to the Schaffhausen home twice in previous years, once in 2009 for a domestic disturbance and again in 2011 on a harassment call when Schaffhausen allegedly leveled threats against at least one of the children.
That matter was referred to authorities in North Dakota where Aaron Schaffhausen was living.
River Falls resident Julie Matzke's 7-year-old daughter was in Girl Scouts with one of the sisters. Matzke describes Sophie Schaffhausen as an energetic, beautiful, little spirit who was taken too soon.
Matzke has created a Facebook page in the girls' honor, and has also set up a vigil at Glen Park in River Falls at 7 p.m.
The River Falls School District has scheduled staff and counselors for two sessions open to families and students of Greenwood Elementary school community to deal with the loss of three popular students. Those sessions are scheduled at the Greenwood Elementary School Media Center from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. Other members of the public are not invited.
The family of the Schaffhausen girls have received numerous requests from people who want to help them following the loss of the girls. Anyone who wants to assist is asked to make donations to the First National Bank of River Falls, with whom a fund is being established. The contact number there is 715-425-2401.
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