Three young girls were found dead in their home in River Falls, Wis., on Tuesday and their father is in jail in connection with the apparent triple homicide.

The sisters, ages 5 to 11, were found dead about 3:30 p.m. inside the house in the 2700 block of Morningside Drive. Police said that the house smelled of gas when officers entered and that no one else was in the home.

Police went to the address after the girls' mother called police with her concerns for the children's safety because of threats made by their father. The parents reportedly are divorced, said Scot Simpson, River Falls city administrator.

The 34-year-old father turned himself in to the police about 4:45 p.m., Simpson said. He was being held in St. Croix County jail on Tuesday night, pending the filing of criminal charges by the county attorney on Wednesday.

Police said Tuesday night that they haven't officially identified the victims, but it appears the victims match the description of the three children. The girls were identified by WCCO-TV as Amara, Sophie and Cea Schaffhausen. The mother, who is assisting police, had not been allowed to enter the home to identify the children late Tuesday night because investigators were still examining the scene, Simpson said.

Investigators from the River Falls Police Department, the St. Croix and Pierce County sheriff's departments and the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation and Crime Lab continued working at the scene late Tuesday night.

Authorities have not yet said how the children died.

"This is a very sad thing for all of us to deal with," Simpson said. "This is a small, tight community. This will have a significant impact on this community. ... I'm not aware of the last time we've had an incident like this."

City officials said support services are being arranged for neighbors and other River Falls residents.

"All of us are saddened by this tragedy," Police Chief Roger Leque said. "At this time, there is no danger to the greater community arising out of this incident."

River Falls, a college town about 30 miles east of the Twin Cities, has a population of about 15,000 people.

"It's pretty shocking," neighbor Kimberly Riley said after hearing about the deaths. "This is a small town."

Riley said law enforcement officers went door to door in the neighborhood to let residents know that there was no danger.

"This is a nice neighborhood with a lot of young, working families," she said.

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788