RIVER FALLS, Wis. - Sending messages of love and loss, a steady stream of classmates and their parents dropped off notes and flowers outside the school of two of the three girls killed by their father.
11-year old Amara and eight year old Sophie attended Greenwood Elementary School. Their five year old sister Cecelia was scheduled to attend next year, but instead she and her sisters are being remembered as lovable little girls.
"Beautiful little child, spirited with a smile on her face all the time," said parent Mary Cottrell whose daughter was in Girl Scouts with Sophie.
Prosecutors formally charged the girls' father, 34-year old Aaron Schaffhausen Thursday. He showed little emotion in court when the serious charges were read to him.
According to the complaint, Schaffhausen, who lives in Minot, North Dakota arrived to River Falls unexpectedly Tuesday. He allegedly called his ex-wife wanting to see the children who were at home with a babysitter. His ex-wife, Jessica Schaffhausen gave him permission and told the babysitter she could go home, according to the complaint.
Shortly after, he allegedly called his ex-wife saying, "You can come home now because I killed the kids."
The details of the crime are even tough for veteran investigators.
"I've been a prosecutor for 30 years," said St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson. "This is by far the worst case I've seen."
Authorities say Schaffhausen slit his daughters' throats and strangled one of them, as well. But investigators are still trying to figure out why. According to police reports, there has been trouble with the couple as early as March when Schaffhausen allegedly threatened to kill his ex.
"Why would something like this happen," asked parent Dawn Borchardt.
She and other parents are left with trying to explain the unexplainable to their children who have been forced to grow up faster.
"She always had a smile on her face. And I miss her a lot," said Maggie Cottrell who was friends with Sophie and broke down sharing memories.
And no matter why it happened, the tragedy is still a tough lesson for kids and their parents.
"I don't understand it," said Borchardt. "I don't have the words."
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