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Glitch in Wisconsin triple-slay plea

March 28, 2013 at 12:24 PM

HUDSON, Wis., March 28 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin judge ordered the defendant in a triple-homicide case to return to court Thursday after an expected guilty plea failed to materialize.

Aaron Schaffhausen, 35, of Minot, N.D., apparently backed away from a plan to plead guilty to the slayings of his three daughters at their home in River Falls, Wis., last summer.

Defense attorney John Kucinski had filed a motion in St. Croix County Circuit Court noting a guilty plea to all charges, but told reporters after Wednesday's hearing there remained some questions that had to be addressed before his client would formally plead.

"We have to look up a bunch of law and how (Judge Howard Cameron) is ruling," Kucinski said.

The St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press said Schaffhausen had previously pleaded innocent by reason of mental disease or defect, and faces trial April 1. The newspaper said Kucinski appeared to be trying to exclude evidence of threats Schaffhausen allegedly made prior to the crime from being used in determining his sentence.

"The sole issues are, at the time of the crimes, was Aaron suffering from a mental illness and because of that mental illness he lacked substantial capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law," Kucinski said.

Prosecutors told the Pioneer Press they did not know why Schaffhausen backed away from a guilty plea and said no concessions by the state were involved.

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