Schaffhausen babysitter: grief without guilt

3:31 PM, Apr 19, 2013   |    comments
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RIVER FALLS, Wis. - Fallon Moore, 19, sports a tattoo of three shooting stars on her right foot - her forever tribute to Amara, Sophie and Cecilia Schaffhausen.

"I like to think of it as they walk with me wherever they go, all the experiences they didn't get to have. They can still be with me," the University of Wisconsin River Falls student said.

Moore babysat the Schaffhausen sisters for five years, and is speaking out for the first time since their father, Aaron Schaffhausen, killed his three young daughters last July.

This week jury ruled Schaffhausen was not insane when he murdered them. Jurors said he had mental defect but that he knew what he was doing was wrong when he slit the throats of 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie, and 5-year-old Cecilia at their home in River Falls.

"It definitely brings a sense of closure, not in an all encompassing sort of a way, definitely to know the trial, legal proceedings and to know the tedious, more unfortunate stuff is gone," said Moore. "Everyone that knew the girls and loved them can get on with just missing them."

Moore was the first witness to take the stand and relayed what she saw that day. She says Schaffhausen was polite, but his usual introverted self, and says the girls were excited to see him after he called his ex-wife Jessica and asked to visit them while he was in town. Moore says she checked with Jessica Schaffhausen before leaving the home, and went home with permission, and with no indication Schaffhausen was about to kill his daughters.

"I don't have regret, and I did not ever feel guilty because to me, that just doesn't do anyone any good. And it's not a healthy way to think," said Moore.

Moore says through therapy, she has learned to release any sense of guilt and find ways to move forward. She is part of fundraising effort underway to turn the town's main park, Hoffman Park, into a memorial for the girls.

The non-profit organization Unlimited Play will transform the park into a playground, with three sections of the playground designed especially to reflect each of the girl's interests.

"Amara wanted to be scientist; she wanted to go to MIT. That was her dream. Sophie was the resident artist; she won some calendar contests with the local elementary school," said Moore.

The pair had plans for their youngest sister too; they told her she would be a brain surgeon. All those ambitions will be reflected in the future memorial, which will be a playground for children of all abilities.

"So all children can play together and celebrate their memory, and take something that is so tragic and sad and turn it into a lifetime of happy memories for children," said Moore.

The project will cost $500,000 and the organization is coordinating donations online. The River Falls Public Library is also beginning an effort to install stained glass windows in the children's section of the library in honor of the girls.

Today a sign in the window of the Schaffhausen home reads, "May the tragedies of a broken marriage and the loss of three precious girls inspire each of us to love more faithfully, work out difference more peacefully, seek help more humbly, forgive more generously, and heal more completely."

Fallon says the request rings true. She says while she's angry at Schaffhausen, she hopes he finds help and peace. In all the struggles she's faced this year, she's completed her first year of college and is closer to her own dream of becoming a social studies teacher.

Now, carrying the dreams of those three little girls, she says, "I love more deeply."

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