By SAM METZ
ENOCH, Utah (AP) — A 42-year-old man killed seven family members, including five children, then killed himself two weeks after the suspect’s wife had filed for divorce, according to authorities and public records.
Officials in the city of Enoch said Michael Haight, 42, killed his wife, mother-in-law and the couple’s five children. Each of the victims appeared to have gunshot wounds, officials said.
Court records show that Tausha Haight, 40, filed for divorce from her husband on Dec. 21. Her lawyer said Thursday that Haight had been served with the divorce papers on Dec. 27.
Police said during a Thursday press conference that they had previous interactions with the family, but they did not elaborate.
Officers were sent to check on the family Wednesday after relatives and friends contacted officials because they had not heard from the victims. Officers found them dead inside the home.
The children ranged in age from 4 to 17 and included three girls and two boys, authorities said. The other victim was Tausha Haight’s 78-year-old mother, Gail Earl.
James Park, who represented Tausha Haight in the divorce case, said she had not expressed any fear that her husband would physically hurt her but declined to elaborate, citing the investigation into the killings. Park said he only met with her twice, mostly recently on Tuesday, and said she “was an incredibly nice lady.”
Enoch is a small town of about 8,000 people located 245 miles (394 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City and about equally distant from Las Vegas.
The home where the victims were found was decorated with Christmas lights and located in a neighborhood of newly built single-family houses on a ridge overlooking the farming community of Enoch. It has a view of houses with snow-covered roofs and mountains in the distance. Half the surrounding block was cordoned off by police tape.
Enoch is on the outskirts of Cedar City, one of the fastest growing cities in Utah, which is one of the U.S.’s fastest growing states. Cattle and sheep line the highway that runs through the town, along with signs that advertise “Custom New Homes” and recreation in southern Utah’s famous national parks and recreation areas.
Enoch City Manager Rob Dotson said the community was sent reeling by news of the eight bodies and that the deceased were well-known in the town.
In most of Utah, the predominant religion is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known widely as the Mormon church.
“Many of us have served with them in church, in the community and gone to school with these individuals,” Dotson said Wednesday night. “This community at this time is hurting. They’re feeling loss, they’re feeling pain and they have a lot of questions.”
“We all can pray that their families and the neighbors and all will come to an understanding of what happened in this place, probably in a day or two, or maybe longer,” he said.
After hearing about the deaths, Sharon Hunstman of Cedar City came to the neighborhood with a bouquet of white flowers Thursday morning. She said the deaths had deeply rattled Iron County and cried she arranged the bouquet.
“It’s just one big community,” she said. “We all have one heavenly father.”
The five children attended schools in the Iron County School District, officials said in a letter sent to parents.
Enoch sits off Interstate 15 in rural Utah, just north of the city of Cedar City and about 80 miles (128 kilometers) west of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Associated Press news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York and reporter Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.
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