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Utah Murder-Suicide Leaves 3 Adults, 5 Children Dead Weeks After Wife Files For Divorce
The national response continues after Michael Haight allegedly fatally shot his wife, mother-in-law and five children in the close-knit community of Enoch, Utah, before turning the gun on himself.
An apparent murder-suicide that left eight family members dead in southwestern Utah reverberates around the country.
Michael Haight, 42, is identified as a suspect in a shocking murder-suicide on Wednesday that claimed the lives of his wife and five children — ranging from ages 4 to 17 — as well as his elderly mother-in-law, according to NBC News. Records obtained by multiple outlets, including the Associated Press, show the tragedy comes just two weeks after the wife, Tausha Haight, 40, filed for divorce.
The incident highlights the ongoing debate on gun control, as pointed out by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement released Thursday.
“Too many Americans have lost loved ones or had their lives forever changed due to gun violence, and gun violence remains the leading cause of death for children in America,” said the White House. “Less than one month after we marked 10 years since the Sandy Hook tragedy, another mass shooting has claimed the lives of five more children in Enoch City.”
On Wednesday at around 4:00 p.m., Enoch City police were dispatched to the family’s home at 4923 North Albert Drive in Enoch — about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City and 200 miles northeast of Las Vegas — for a welfare check, according to a release by Enoch City officials.
Loved ones grew concerned when Tausha failed to show up for an appointment earlier in the week, according to the Associated Press.
All eight victims were dead on arrival, and all appeared to have died of gunshot wounds.
Tausha's 78-year-old mother, Gail Earl, was also among the dead, as were the couple’s five children, though Oxygen.com is declining to release their names on account of their ages. The minor victims included a 17-year-old female, a 12-year-old female, a 7-year-old female, a 7-year-old male and a 4-year-old male.
Enoch City Mayor Geoffrey Chesnut tearfully spoke at a live press conference following the murder-suicide, explaining he and his family were neighbors of the Haight family and that their children played with one another.
“This is a tremendous blow to many, many families who have spent many, many nights with these individuals who are now gone,” Chesnut stated.
Shaken residents have described the town of about 8,000 as a tight-knit and fast-growing community, hosting large families, many of whom belong to the Mormon faith, according to the Associated Press.
Michael Haight reportedly once worked as an agent for Allstate Insurance, and the family was active with the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) church, NBC Salt Lake City affiliate KSL-TV reported.
All five children were students of the Iron County School District, as confirmed by school officials, who announced their Crisis Intervention Team is on-hand for anyone in need of counseling support.
“This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school district, especially our students," a statement read.
Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes also joined the growing response, calling the events “horrific” and “shocking.”
“My family is praying for everyone affected, including Mayor Chesnut, law enforcement, and other responders who have been handling this heartbreaking case at the scene and beyond,” Reyes stated.
The tragedy also highlights the rising number of domestic and intimate partner violence incidents after reports indicated that Tausha Haight, who married Michael in 2003, filed for divorce on Dec. 21, according to the Associated Press. However, at Wednesday’s press conference, Enoch Police Chief Jackson Ames declined to elaborate on a possible motive.
Tausha’s divorce lawyer, James Park, told the Associated Press that his client hadn’t expressed fear of her husband. However, Chief Ames told reporters their department had been “involved in some investigations with the family a couple [of] years prior” but did not elaborate on the details.
Tausha's petition for divorce is not subject to public record.
City Manager Rob Dotson, leading the press conference, emotionally asked the public for prayers and their ongoing support of law enforcement.
“We don’t know why this happened,” said Dotson. “No one will probably know what was going through the minds of these individuals. However, we do know that they were our friends, they were our neighbors, and that we loved them.”
According to the FBI, there are 1,000 to 1,500 victims of murder-suicide per year in the United States. Nine out of 10 of these victims are killed with a firearm, as reported by the Victim Policy Center.
Studies published by the Office of Justice show the most common precipitator of men killing their intimate partners occurs when the victim attempts or threatens to leave.
Canyon Creek Services, a domestic violence crisis center in Cedar City, Utah — just a few miles south of Enoch — also offered their support in the wake of the tragedy, providing regional and national resources to anyone in need.
“Canyon Creek Services and our team are grieving alongside our community as we learned of the tragic loss of life and the experience of domestic violence that has devastated an Enoch family and so many close to them,” the center wrote.
Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox asked the public to keep the city of Enoch in their prayers as the investigation continued.