Thankfully, the jury in St. Croix County got its verdict spot-on Tuesday when it determined that Aaron Schaffhausen knew exactly what he was doing the day last July when he grotesquely slit the throats of his three daughters — 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia — tucked their lifeless bodies into bed, then called his wife to gloat that her children were dead.
It’s cases such as these that leave many Wisconsinites yearning for such options as lethal injection or electrocution, if for no other reason than the $30,000 a year or whatever it’s going to cost us to keep this coward locked up for the rest of his life. Then again, keeping a 35-year-old behind bars for the rest of his sorry days may be an even worse fate for him. Let’s hope so.
Of course, we can’t possibly be done with this guy. No doubt there will be some kind of appeal eventually. The final act of vindictive cowards such as Schaffhausen is to try to wiggle out of being held accountable.
The insanity defense was a charade from the get-go, and kudos to the jury for having no part of it. Witnesses testified that Schaffhausen had threatened to kill his daughters, his ex-wife and the man she was dating.
He traveled hundreds of miles from Minot, N.D., to River Falls, where he went to the house, sent the baby sitter home, carried out his threat, tried to burn down the house and discarded evidence to cover his deed — and then he claimed in court that the whole thing was a blur.
The jury didn’t have an easy task. Lay people don’t understand mental illness; even professionals don’t always know when someone is mentally ill or to what degree. It’s also human nature to concede some kind of mental illness in such horrific crimes. After all, what sane person could even contemplate something so ghoulish, much less carry it out.
In this case, the defense was something called “catathymic homicide,” a disorder that triggers disproportionate rage toward a partner planning to leave or who has left the relationship.
Lots of people break up or get depressed for any number of reasons, but buying this argument means someone, someday could approve Schaffhausen’s release. That is unthinkable.
Unfortunately, as we found out again this week with the events in Boston, some people are evil, hateful, violent to the extreme — whatever you want to call it. Some kill out of jealousy, some to “get even.” Heck, some people kill for no other reason than because someone drew a cartoon halfway around the world that they feel insults their religion.
Unfortunately, we can’t eliminate hate from our midst. The best we can do is try to contain it, in this case in a small cell for the next however many years Aaron Schaffhausen inhales and exhales.
God forbid anyone comes along and undoes the jury’s decision, but we have to be vigilant, because as the years go by, people move away and die. Others forget. Schaffhausen may somehow convince someone years from now that he has found the way and wants to do good.
Not in this life, child killer. Two words: Maximum security.
The Leader-Telegram is based in Eau Claire, Wis.