The community of River Falls is mourning the loss of three sisters who were found dead in their home Tuesday afternoon.
According to police, the mother of the three girls -- identified by authorities as Amara Schaffhausen, age 11; Sophie Schaffhausen, age 8; and Cecilia Lee Schaffhausen, age 5 -- called police after she became concerned for the girls' safety following statements made by their father.
Officers arrived at the home at 2790 Morningside Avenue and immediately noticed an odor of gas and found that the gas fireplace was on. A flammable liquid could be smelled in the basement, and a responding officer turned off the fireplace before finding the bodies of the three children.
Police took 34-year-old Aaron Schaffhausen into custody after he turned himself in at the police department around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. Formal charges are pending.
A vigil has been planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday night at Glen Park in River Falls. The vigil was organized by Julie Matzke, whose 7-year-old daughter was in Girl Scouts with one of the sisters.
The River Falls School District has also scheduled staff and counselors for two sessions for Greenwood Elementary families and students to help them cope with the tragedy. Those sessions are set for Wednesday between 2 and 4 p.m. and Thursday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Memorials were also displayed at Greenwood Elementary School on Wednesday, showing how much the three girls will be missed.
"The entire River Falls school family is shocked by this tragedy and deeply saddened by the loss of the three Schaffhausen girls," said Tom Westerhaus, superintendent. "The two oldest girls, Amara and Sophie Schaffhausen, were students at Greenwood Elementary School and are being remembered as bright, happy, friendly children by staff and other students. We were looking forward to having Cecilia Schaffhausen join her sisters in school this fall, when she would have started kindergarten."
The Bakken-Young Funeral Home will be handling the funeral arrangements.
The family has asked that those wishing to assist the family with monetary donations make those to the Benefit Account for Schaffhausen Children at First National Bank of River Falls, which will be handling a fund. To contribute, call 715-425-2401.
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