RIVER FALLS, Wis. — Ten years ago, a father murdered his three young daughters at their home in River Falls.
The unimaginable act made headlines all around the world.
Since then, the girls' mother, Jessica Peterson, has worked to keep their memory alive — from helping build a community playground to speaking engagements.
Next month, she'll share their story unlike you've ever heard before in a new book called Thistles & Thorns.
"There are times where grief will come up and bite me when I'm not expecting it," said Peterson.
In July of 2012, while Peterson was at work, her ex-husband Aaron Schaffhausen came to her home and murdered their three daughters: 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia.
It took a jury just a matter of hours to convict Schaffhausen and sentence him to life in prison. Peterson, though, has no plans to leave the small town.
"People often ask, 'How do you do it? How do you carry on?' And I say, 'I don't, but we do,'" said Peterson about the community support. "If I was at the grocery store and broke down sobbing in the aisle, they knew why. I mean, the first time I made it through without crying, the cashier said, 'You did it."
If camaraderie carried Peterson through the dark times, writing helped ease it. She started by writing letters to her daughters. The book took five years to finish and on her website, Peterson writes that the tale will "wreak havoc on the status quo of how to survive and grieve".
"You get to be there with me for some of those hard, hard moments and know what we went through and what I had to do to still carry on and still be their mom," said Peterson. "Even though I know some people will read my story just for entertainment value, I'm ok with that because it's going to reach someone who needs to hear my story."
Peterson has since remarried and had two more children. Flint is Jessica's first son and Trinity Hope arrived a year before him. Her husband, Matthew Peterson, had his first date with Jessica less than two weeks before her girls were killed.
"We all face hardships and tragedies, be they big, small, it doesn't have to hit the national news to be gutting," said Peterson. "Just knowing somebody else out there is hurt too and I'm out here feeding that light and hopefully some of it reaches you."
Peterson's new book will be released on Oct. 25, but it is available for pre-order right now.
Release: Oct. 25, 2022 from Written Dreams Publishing, a small press publisher located in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Pre-sales: Currently Thistles & Thorns has been pre-ordered from readers in 40 states.
Formats: It will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook world-wide
Book Launch Party: Saturday, November 12 from 1 PM - 4 PM at Tattersall Distillery and Event Center, 1777 Paulson Road River Falls, Wisconsin.
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