River Falls police look for laptop tied to homicide case

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2012 - 11:40 PM

Aaron Schaffhausen, accused of killing his three daughters, could have dumped it anywhere between the crime scene and Baldwin, Wis.

Police in River Falls, Wis., asked for the public's help Friday in finding a laptop computer that might belong to Aaron Schaffhausen, the man charged with killing his three daughters on Tuesday.

The laptop and case may have been abandoned on the side of the road or in a ditch between the family's house and Baldwin, Wis., police said. The laptop is a Sony VAIO in a Targus laptop bag.

Police believe Schaffhausen, 34, might have disposed of the laptop before he turned himself in to police about 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. He might have driven on roads east or north of the family's home in the 2700 block of Morningside Avenue in River Falls in a blue 2012 Chevrolet Cruze with California license plates, the news release said.

Authorities did not say what might be on the laptop, how they know about it and why Schaffhausen was driving a car with California plates.

Anyone finding it is asked to call the police at 715-425-0909.

Schaffhausen was charged Thursday in St. Croix County District Court with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of his daughters, Amara, 11; Sophie, 8, and Cecilia, 5. The two oldest girls' throats were slit. Cecilia was strangled and her throat was slit also.

According to charges, Schaffhausen unexpectedly texted and called his ex-wife, Jessica Schaffhausen, Tuesday asking if he could visit their children, who lived with her. The couple had divorced in January; he was living in Minot, N.D.

She granted him permission, and he arrived at the home about 1:30 p.m. A baby sitter left after consulting with Jessica Schaffhausen.

At 3:30 p.m., Aaron Schaffhausen called his ex-wife and said he had killed the girls, the criminal complaint said.

Authorities found the girls in their beds with blankets drawn to their necks. A gas fireplace was on, and gasoline was spilled in the basement. Police have not discussed a possible motive for any of Schaffhausen's actions.

His bail has been set at $2 million. Amara had just completed fifth grade and Sophie, second grade, at Greenwood Elementary School. Cecilia was set to start kindergarten this fall. Principal Nate Schurman said hundreds of parents and students poured into the school the past three days to speak with counselors and post notes and lay flowers at a memorial.

"We're here for them and we're giving them a sense of normalcy by allowing them to come into a place they are familiar with," Schurman said Friday. "The children ask a lot of the same questions the adults are: Why did this happen? Why did a dad do this to his daughters?"

Schurman, who has three children of his own who knew the girls, said counselors and staff have been honest in answering questions.

Honesty and reassurance

Psychologist Dr. Randi Erickson said her office in Hudson, Wis., Croix Counseling and Psychology, has received calls from parents asking how they can talk with their kids about the deaths.

Erickson said parents should not ignore or deny any trauma their children may be experiencing. Her recommendations:

• Provide brief, factual information about the incident.

• Minimize exposure to repetitive, graphic details.

• Reinforce how uncommon the event was.

• Acknowledge all feelings as legitimate.

• Reassure children they are not in danger.

• Stress that children are not responsible for acts of violence committed against them.

• Explore activities that help them feel in control of their lives, such as making a meal, creating a memory poster or doing a good deed.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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