RIVER FALLS, Wis. - Scores ofresidents gathered Wednesday night in a city park to mourn the loss of three sisters who suddenly dieda day earlier, allegedly at the hands of their own father.
"I want us to go away from here with the idea that we're going to heal from this," Juli Matzke, who organized the event in Glen Park, told the tearful crowd.
Many of the children at the vigil knew theSchaffhausen girls -- Amara, who was 11; Sophie, who was 8, and Cecelia who was 5. Those who came to grieve were linked to the victims through school, church, Girl Scouts and sports teams.
All three girls were found dead in their River Falls home Tuesday, after their father, Aaron Schaffhausen, paid them an unscheduled visit. He moved to Minot, North Dakota following a divorce from the girls' mother, Jessica Schaffhausen, in January.
Jessicatold policethat Aaroncalled her Tuesday, and hinted that he had harmed the girls. He turned himself in a half hour after their lifeless bodies were found, and will make his first court appearance Thursday.
Investigators have not revealed how the girls died, but did say natural gas had filled the home when they arrived. They said other accelerants had been poured on the basement floor.
"It makes me very angry to have three lives snuffed out before they even begin to experience anything," Sara Wussler told KARE Wednesday.
Wussler was at the vigil with her daughter Serena, who is in the sameGirl Scout group as Sophie Schaffhausen. She said Serena took the news very hard.
"I actually told her this morning because I found out about it last night. I just told her that Sofie and her sisters went up to heaven and, you know, they're where nobody can hurt them. And they're safe and healthy and with God now."
Members of Amara's traveling soccer team painted her jersey number, 36, on their cheeks before the vigil.Their coach, Jeff Parsons,wanted the girls to be there to grieve the loss of the girl who spent five years on the team.
"We've all seen death, I suppose," Parsons told KARE. "The circumstances are very, very hard to take. She was a wonderful girl."
Two of Sophie's classmates from Greenwood Elementary described her as a happy, sweet girl.
"Probably the most thing I liked about Sophie was she was very funny, very nice," Lily Schartau said. "I hope we can all live our lives the way we did before Sophie died.
Morgan Rippie added, "I'll always love her. She's super nice. She's friendly. And it's just so sad that she died."
Anyone who wants to assist the family financially is asked to make donations to a fund set up at the First National Bank of River Falls. The contact number there is 715-425-2401.