Utah father kills wife, 5 kids, mother-in-law, police say, stunning ‘very close’ community

Police suspect the father killed his family before killing himself.

(Mark Eddington | The Salt Lake Tribune) Law enforcement continue to investigate a home in Enoch City on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, where eight members of a family were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide Wednesday afternoon. Officials said Michael Haight, 42, took his own life after killing his wife, mother-in-law and the couple's five children.

Enoch • Eight people from one family, including five children, were found shot to death inside a southern Utah home Wednesday afternoon in an apparent murder-suicide, officials announced Thursday.

The children’s father, 42-year-old Michael Haight, is suspected of killing the children; his wife, 40-year-old Tausha Haight; and Tausha’s mother, 78-year-old Gail Earl, before killing himself, officials said.

The children were identified by age Thursday as a 17-year-old girl, a 12-year-old girl, a 7-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old boy, according to a news release from Enoch City.

On Wednesday, police were asked to check on the family at their home on the 4900 North block of Albert Drive, where they found Michael Haight and the seven victims dead inside at around 4 p.m.

“Each appeared to have sustained gunshot wounds,” officials said.

According to court records, Tausha had petitioned for divorce from Michael in December.

Enoch is home to about 8,000 people, located about 7 miles northeast of Cedar City in Iron County. Late Wednesday, Enoch City Manager Rob Dotson said the community was reeling after news of the family’s deaths, all of whom were well-known in the town.

“Many of us have served with them in church, in the community and gone to school with these individuals,” Dotson said at the time.

During a Thursday news conference, Dotson said that someone with whom Tausha had an appointment with on Wednesday morning called Cedar City police after she missed the appointment and asked that authorities check on her.

After Tausha wasn’t found, a missing person’s report was filed. A few hours later, “the welfare check to locate Tausha became an effort to find the entire family,” Dotson said.

Mayor Geoffrey Chesnut grew emotional during the news conference Thursday as he said the Haight family were his neighbors and that their youngest children played in his yard with his sons.

“Enoch is a very close community. ... No one wants to leave here,” Chesnut said. “The neighbors are good, the people are wonderful, and the efforts that we make on one another’s behalf is like family.”

He later noted Michael Haight, the father suspected in the killings, had worked as a local insurance salesperson.

In a statement Thursday, city officials said they join “all who are deeply saddened by this tragic incident and want to express our condolences to the family and friends of the victims.”

(Tina Brown) Tausha Haight is surrounded by her five children in an undated photograph. Tausha, her mother, and children were shot dead by her husband, Michael Haight on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, before killing himself, according to officials.

‘So many people knew them’

Each of the children killed attended public school in Iron County, according to the Iron County School District. The district sent an email to parents and guardians Wednesday about the “tragic loss.”

“This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school district, especially our students,” a district statement read.

Iron County School District spokeswoman Shauna Lund described Enoch as “a small community” where “schools become families.”

“These students go through school together, get to know one another very well,” she said, adding that students and staff were reeling “even in schools these students didn’t attend, just because so many people knew them.”

The district’s crisis intervention team was dispatched to Iron County schools on Thursday, and counseling is available to students, parents and school personnel “who may need or want help or assistance surrounding this loss,” according to the district.

Schools are working with other groups in the community, including Southwest Behavioral Health, to set up a community crisis center where people can get help “even after school hours,” Lund said, as well as for those who don’t have access to help through the school district.

Counseling will be available “as long as we see the need,” Lund continued.

(Sam Metz | AP) Sharon Huntsman, from Cedar City, leaves flowers outside a home where eight family members were found dead in Enoch, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. Officials said Michael Haight, 42, took his own life after killing his wife, mother-in-law and the couple's five children.

In a statement, the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition noted that “while any domestic violence fatality impacts more than the victims, we would like to acknowledge that this situation affects smaller and rural communities differently.”

According to the coalition, homicides in rural communities are three times as likely to involve an intimate partner than killings in large cities.

“In addition, the connections between all those directly involved when domestic violence occurs in smaller communities can be profound and overlapping.”

In a tweet, Gov. Spencer Cox asked Utahns to “keep the community of Enoch in your prayers.” Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson tweeted that she is “praying for the community of Enoch tonight.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday also shared that President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden “are mourning with the Enoch City, Utah community in the wake of a tragic shooting that has reportedly claimed the lives of five children and multiple adults in their family home.”

More details on the killings were not immediately available as of Thursday afternoon.

Editor’s note • Those who are experiencing intimate partner violence, or know someone who is, are urged to call the Utah Domestic Violence Link Line, 1-800-897-LINK (5465), or the Utah Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line, 1-888-421-1100.

If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline’s 24-hour support.