HUDSON, Wis. (WEAU) – The man convicted of killing his three daughters to get back at his ex-wife was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of extended supervision.
A judge handed down the sentence on each of three counts of First Degree Intentional Homicide to Aaron Schaffhausen, 35, of Minot, ND on Monday afternoon. Schaffhausen was also sentenced to more than 12 years in prison on a count of Arson of Building Without Owner's Consent.
"Aaron has spent his whole life blaming everyone and every everyone else for his problems," Jessica Schaffhausen's sister Mary Elizabeth Stotz told the court. "Aaron has never owned his own decisions. Aaron is playing on the fact that our society cannot imagine that a same person could ever murder his own children."
The 35-year-old Schaffhausen had admitted killing the girls in July 2012 to get back at his ex-wife, but argued he had a mental defect that kept him from knowing it was wrong.
According to police, while going through a divorce, Jessica Schaffhausen allowed Aaron to see 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia, while she was away. There, Aaron killed the girls by cutting their throats and later turned himself in.
“Aaron had total control of his situation where he could've chosen compassion and instead he chose cruelty,” the girls’ grandfather, and Jessica’s father, Phillip Calvin Stotz said.
Life sentences were mandatory in each girl's death, but Schaffhausen had the prospect of supervised release after at least 20 years in prison. That was rejected by St. Croix County Circuit Judge Howard Cameron.
“The public deserves to be protected from you, Mr. Schaffhausen,” Judge Cameron told Schaffhausen before handing down the sentence. “I don’t think you can be rehabilitated at this point in time.”
"I don't see mental illness as a mitigating factor, and I can't find any other mitigating factors on your behalf, Mr. Schaffhausen. I would do it if I could, but I can't."
Schaffhausen looked straight ahead as he was led out of the courtroom.
His attorney argued that Schaffhausen was not guilty by reason of mental illness, but a jury decided in Apr. that he knew what he was doing that day.
“Schaffhausen's mother said he's a good man with a mental illness, but both Jessica Schaffhausen's family and ultimately, the judge disagreed.
“You have a good heart, you have many talents,” Aaron’s mother Sue Allen said to her son.
“Aaron is not mentally ill, just an extremely evil coward,” Jessica’s sister Mary Elizabeth Stotz said.
With a chance Schaffhausen could be released at age 54, judge Cameron said because of the gravity of the crime, the need protect the public, and to deter future crimes, the maximum possible sentence of three consecutive life terms in prison was necessary.
“I have to send a message, to Jessica, to the public, that each child is so important, a sentence has to be consecutive to each other,” Cameron said.
“Some people shouldn't be allowed to smell the fresh air or see the sunshine or feel the rain again,” the girls’ cousin Eryn Schlotte said.
"Walking out of here, being vengeful, giving consecutive sentencing doesn't help anybody. All these other kind of killings are going to go on because nobody's paying attention to mental illness,” John Kucinski, the defense attorney, said.
“I'm very happy to see that Judge Cameron found what I think is the justice of this sentence,” prosecutor Gary Freyberg said.
“Today we can go home with relief and take the next step forward in knowing that justice has been served to the best that it could be in an awful situation,” Sophie’s God mother Carrie Leveille said.
Schaffhausen's lawyer said he does plan on appealing the judge's decision. Schaffhausen had several opportunities to address the court but never gave more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.