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Man who dated Jessica Schaffhausen testifies he received threatening call

Aaron Schaffhausen confers with public defender Donna Burger at the conclusion of testimony Wednesday afternoon, April 10. St. Croix County Circuit Judge Howard Cameron is in the background.

Day 8 in the jury trial to determine if Aaron Schaffhausen was legally insane when he murdered his three young daughters brought testimony from a man who dated Schaffhausen's ex-wife and the man's mother.

Both Josh Flanders and his mother, Judith Flanders, said they received what they considered to be threatening phone calls from the 35-year-old Schaffhausen between the time he separated from Jessica Schaffhausen and the murders of his daughters on July 10, 2012.

Josh Flanders said Schaffhausen told him that bad things would happen if he continued to see Jessica Schaffhausen and that he should watch his back.

Flanders said he asked Schaffhausen if he was threatening him, and Schaffhausen said that he wasn't, but then repeated the statement that he should watch his back.

"He was trying to dance around the question," said Flanders.

Judith Flanders testified that Schaffhausen told her over the phone, "If you don't want to see your son's life shortened, he needs to stop f--- my wife."

Twelve witnesses in all were called by the prosecution in testimony that began Wednesday morning, April 10, and ended at about 4:30 p.m.

Schaffhausen's former boss, Michael G. Tappe, answered questions about the type of employee Schaffhausen was. He said Schaffhausen worked for him for more than 10 years, starting as a carpenter and advancing to foreman.

Tappe described Schaffhausen as a good worker, very organized and well-liked by customers.

The prosecution, Assistant Attorney General Gary Freyberg and St. Croix County Assistant District Attorney Amber Hahn, appeared to be trying to make the case that Schaffhausen was competent and someone who planned his actions.

Tappe also testified about a problem the construction company had with Schaffhausen in February or March of 2012, dealing with inaccurate time card reporting and attendance. He said he talked to Schaffhausen about it, and there were no further issues.

A Minot, N.D., police officer testified about having taken Schaffhausen into custody on March 7, 2012, after Minot police received a call from the River Falls Police Department saying he had threatened to kill Jessica Schaffhausen.

Patrol Officer Charles S. Johnson said he went to the apartment where Schaffhausen was living with Joseph Rollag.

A very-intoxicated, tall, white male answered the door, Johnson said. When he asked for Schaffhausen, the man motioned toward the other man in the apartment, the officer said.

The other man indicated that the intoxicated man was Schaffhausen.

Johnson stopped Schaffhausen as he was walking away from the apartment in the building hallway and placed him in handcuffs.

Dr. Allyson Hart, who is married to a cousin of Schaffhausen, testified about phone calls she received from Schaffhausen after he and his wife separated, and then divorced.

Hart said that in one call he told her he wasn't talking to his daughters because it reminded him of everything he had lost, and that he knew it would hurt Jessica.

Hart said Schaffhausen called her about five or six times under the pretext of wanting medical advice, but always turned the conversation to the divorce and his desire to remain married.

"He was angry that Jess was dating other people," she said. "He said he felt it started before the breakup."

Hart said that she recommended multiple times that Schaffhausen see a therapist, but he resisted saying a therapist wouldn't be able to do anything for him.

A former rental car agency manager, a hotel general manager and two restaurant workers provided details about Schaffhausen's actions in the 24 hours before he drove from St. Paul to River Falls and killed his children.

Jim Prince, a former manager of the Hertz car rental business at the St. Paul Amtrak station, talked about renting a car to Schaffhausen shortly before noon on July 9, 2012, the day before the murders.

Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Hahn, Prince said Schaffhausen had reserved the car at 5:39 p.m. on July 8.

Police say the blue Chevrolet Cruze with California license plates is the car Schaffhausen drove to the River Falls Police Department to surrender after the discovery of his daughters' bodies in the home of his ex-wife.

Prince said Schaffhausen said he would be returning the car within a day.

Cathy Buchanan, general manager of the Holiday Inn in downtown St. Paul, said Schaffhausen checked into the hotel at 12:30 p.m. on July 9, a Monday, and checked out at 9:15 a.m. the next morning, the day of the murders.

The morning of the killings

He went from the hotel to the adjoining Liffey Irish Pub, the testimony of two servers at the bar and restaurant indicated.

Shannon Wenzel said she served Schaffhausen a Bloody Mary and opened a tab for him using his credit card shortly after he arrived.

He had a book and a pack of cigarettes and said he wanted to sit outside in the sun and read, Wenzel said.

When asked to describe Schaffhausen's demeanor, Wenzel said he was "calm, cool, collected."

Schaffenhausen sat on the pub's outdoor stoop, and then moved to the second-floor terrace some time before it opened at 11 a.m., according to the testimony.

Bartender/server Hannah Ackerly said she needed to look at the bill given to Schaffhausen to recall serving him another Bloody Mary and a Leinenkeugel's Honey Weiss beer.

He sat at the bar, she said, and the two conversed occasionally as she worked behind the bar and checked to see if there was anything more he wanted. She said he also had a Rueben sandwich and garlic crispy chips for lunch.

Ackerly asked him how he was doing, and he said he was fine, she recalled. She said he looked tired - like he had been up all night, or working hard.

When Schaffhausen mentioned that he was passing through St. Paul on his way to visit his daughters, Ackerly told him that she was from a family of three girls. She light-heartedly said she knew how much trouble three daughters could be and asked if his caused him any problems.

Schaffhausen replied that his girls, ages 11, 8 and 5, weren't too much to handle, Ackerly testified. When she inquired about his plans for the day with his daughters, he said something about a soccer game.

She noticed that he wasn't wearing a wedding ring, and that his hand shook when he gave her his credit card to pay the bill.

Ackerly said Schaffhausen left pub terrace before she could say good-bye to him. The receipt indicated he paid the bar and lunch tab at 12:34 p.m.

Wenzel, the other server who waited on Schaffhausen, said he tracked her down to give her a $2 tip before leaving.

"I thought that was polite, but maybe unnecessary," she said under questioning.

"Most people don't bother to do that," Wenzel added when cross-examined by public defender Burger. She thought he was "admirably polite."

He seemed a little pensive - to have a lot on his mind, Wenzel said.

Two law enforcement officers also testified - Investigator Brent Standaert of St. Croix County Sheriff's Department and Officer Chris Gottfredsen of the River Falls Police Department.

Judge Howard Cameron delayed the resumption of testimony until 10 a.m. Thursday, April 11, because of the ice and snowstorm that was expected.

Freyberg said the prosecution would be calling experts from the Wisconsin Crime Labs in Madison and Wausau to the stand.

Judge Cameron said the trial was proceeding a little more quickly than anticipated. He said it appears that it will end sometime before the end of next week (April 15-19).

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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