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Schaffhausen murder trial could go to jury by Tuesday

Closing arguments could be heard soon in the Schaffhausen murder trail at the St. Croix County Government Center in Hudson.

HUDSON - The trial to determine the sanity of Aaron Schaffhausen in the murder of his three daughters in River Falls last July could be in the hands of the jury by Tuesday, April 16.

At the end of Friday afternoon's testimony, prosecutor Gary Freyberg said he had only one witness left -- a medical doctor who will address Schaffhausen's mental condition.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Monday in the St. Croix Government Center with the prosecution's final witness.

The prosecution's case seems to be moving toward a swift conclusion, but apparently not fast enough for defense attorney John Kucinski.

Kucinski made a series of objections - especially over the course of testimony given by Amy Buscher, a forensic scientist with the Wisconsin Crime Lab in Madison.

Freyberg guided Buscher through a review of a number of items provided by River Falls police that were examined for DNA evidence.

These primarily included blood samples taken from socks, shirts and shorts that belonged to Schaffhausen.

Buscher described each piece of clothing, what was found and how she analyzed each sample.

Many items, she said, revealed "DNA profiles" that were traced to one or more of Schaffhausen's three daughters -- Cecilia, 5, Sophie, 8 and Amara, 11.

During the middle of Buscher's testimony, Kucinski objected, asking what the blood-stained clothing had to do with his client's state of mind.

Kucinski said Schaffhausen has already admitted his guilt and that the prosecution was still trying the case as if that guilt wasn't established.

"There is no connection of any of this to his mental state," Kucinski told Judge Howard Cameron, adding it's indisputable that blood was found at the home of Schaffhausen's ex-wife and that the couple's three daughters were also found killed there.

Freyberg countered that his case rests on more than the opinions of mental-health experts.

He said the evidence being presented shows Schaffhausen, by his actions, knew "right from wrong."

Freyberg referred to clothes of Schaffhausen and his daughters that were laundered but still had blood stains as showing a thoughtful, reasoned pattern of behavior by Schaffhausen.

Cameron ruled in Freyberg's favor, saying the prosecution's case wasn't prejudicial and he didn't want to put limits on it.

Despite the judge's ruling, Kucinski made a "continuing objection" and the judge allowed that to be part of the court's record.

Kucinski made further objections that were overruled as Buscher summarized her findings of more blood stains found at the Schaffhausen home at 2790 Morningside Ave.

Some of these were obtained as swabs that police took from furniture, the floor, carpeting and the washing machine.

Kucinski also objected to the next witness, a forensic pathologist from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office in Minnesota who did autopsies of the victims.

Kucinski said the doctor's testimony had "no relevance," but Cameron overruled, saying he didn't limit the defense's case and, in fairness, he wouldn't limit the prosecution's case.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Dr. Victor Froloff said the three girls all bled profusely from "sharp-force" large, deep wounds to the throat. Froloff said each was found with an adult-sized white T-shirt knotted around the neck, probably placed after their deaths.

The medical examiner's doctor said only the youngest girl, Cecilia, had "defensive wounds" on her arms.

Froloff also concluded that Cecilia's autopsy showed the most brutal of injuries, with cause of death hard to determine because of "two competing wounds" - one from a sharp-force instrument and the other from asphyxiation. She also had two knife wounds on her neck.

Two River Falls police officers took the stand briefly Friday afternoon - investigator Chuck Golden and Sgt. Jon Aubart, who heads up the department's investigations.

Golden was asked to verify three boxes of the girls' clothing that were packed up as evidence and sent to the state crime lab.

He was also asked if he was present while the girls' bodies were still in the house after their deaths were discovered. Golden said he was.

Under questioning, Golden said yes, the dead girls also had blood on their hair, and that their heads were found resting on their pillows.

Aubart said law enforcement conducted an extensive search to find a laptop computer and cellphone that Schaffhausen supposedly threw away before turning himself in to police after the killings.

That search covered "significant areas," including sites near the Rush River and the Red Barn in rural Pierce County. Still, neither the laptop nor phone was ever found.

The questioning seemed to get a bit strange near the end.

The prosecution asked Aubart about Sparks, a malt-beverage, energy drink. A can of it was allegedly found in the bathroom of the Schaffhausen house.

Aubart, asked to describe Sparks, said it came in four flavors and had an 8% alcoholic content. He said the flavor of the Sparks can in the bathroom was blackberry.

Kucinski asked if the Sparks can was ever taken by police as evidence. Aubart said no it wasn't.

Kucinski asked if it was ever determined if the Sparks can was full or not, and Aubart said it wasn't determined.

Kucinski then asked Aubart about the exact time he first arrived at the Schaffhausen house on July 10, the date the girls were killed.

He also asked Aubart if he had requested that a sheriff's deputy that night remove a pet cat from the Schaffhausen house, and Aubart said he had.

And that was how the trial ended Friday. While Cameron said the case could go to the jury by Tuesday, that could change if an unexpected witness or two is asked to testify.

Friday morning a witness from Amtrak said Schaffhausen bought a one-way ticket from St. Paul to Minot, N.D., on July 9, 2012. The ticket was for a train that would have left St. Paul late Tuesday night, July 10, hours after the killings.

A forensic image specialist also showed the jury graphic crime scene images.

These revealed how the girls were found by police in their bedrooms and with much blood on the carpet. Some people in the audience, including family members, cried.