A 42-year-old Utah man whose wife had filed for divorce just before Christmas shot dead seven members of his family including his five children ranging in age from 4 to 17 and then turned the gun on himself, officials said on Thursday.
The massacre on Wednesday has stunned the close-knit community of Enoch City in southwestern Utah, where both the mayor and the city manager said they knew the Haight family as neighbors.
After reporting the shooting with scant details on Wednesday, city officials called a news conference on Thursday and identified the shooter as Michael Haight, the father of the five children he killed.
Haight also shot dead his wife, Tausha Haight, 40, and her mother, Gail Earl, 78.
The children killed were a 4-year-old boy, a 7-year-old boy, a 7-year-old girl, a 12-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl, officials said without naming them.
“The Haights were my neighbors. The youngest children played in my yard with my sons,” Enoch City Mayor Geoffrey Chesnut told reporters. “Enoch City is a very close community. The neighbors are good. The people are wonderful. And the effort we make on one another’s behalf is like family.”
The rural town of about 7,500 is home to a high number of young professionals with children, Chesnut said.
Police were sent to the home for a welfare check after Tausha Haight had missed an appointment in town and efforts to reach her had failed, Chesnut said.
Tausha Haight and one of her daughters had been seen at a church event on Tuesday night, Chesnut said.
Officials declined to draw conclusions about the impact of the divorce petition that they said had been filed on Dec. 21.
Police Chief Jackson Ames said officers were once called to the couple’s home a couple of years ago for an incident that he declined to describe, but that there had been no recent complaints.
“From what we saw outside, they were just phenomenally kind, and so everyone I’ve talked to has just been absolutely shocked about losing them,” neighbor Garrett Minkler told ABC4 television.
School officials said counselors were being made available to classmates of the victims.
City Manager Rob Dotson noted that officials at the news conference were misty-eyed, their voices cracking, because of the emotional toll.
“We don’t know why this happened,” Dotson said. “However, we do know that they were our friends. They were our neighbors. And that we loved them.”