Three young sisters found dead in a gas-filled home in Wisconsin died at the hands of their estranged father, police said today.
Aaron Schaffhausen, 34, had been living in North Dakota since divorcing the girls' mother in January but went to the Wisconsin home the mother and daughters shared on Tuesday, while the mother was out of town, according to police. A babysitter who was watching the girls left when Schaffhausen arrived, police said.
Around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the girls' mother asked police to perform a welfare check on her daughters after she had an unsettling conversation with Schaffhausen where he threatened their well-being, according to police.
Police arrived at the Schaffhausen home and smelled a strong odor of "what was believed to be flamable liquid" as well as a gas fireplace that had been left on. They then found the three girls, all of whom were already dead, according to police.
Around 4:45 p.m., Schaffhausen turned himself in to police and was charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of daughters Amara, 11, Sophie, 8, and Ceclia Lee, 5.
Police said that Schaffhausen had been accused of harassing his ex-wife and daughters in March of this year, when he threatened to harm at least one of the children. Police had also responded to a domestic incident at the home of the couple in 2009.
Grieving friends and neighbors organized a vigil to be held for the girls tonight, as well as counseling sessions for friends of the girls at the River Falls school district's Greenwood Elementary school, according to ABC News affiliate WQOW.