Tausha Haight often confided in a few close friends about her marriage — her concerns that it wasn’t normal, that her husband was emotionally abusive and controlling, how he wouldn’t let her buy groceries without permission and told her she could only drive their new car once she showed him she “deserved it.”
So when she decided to move forward with a divorce in December, she trusted those friends to watch her five kids and keep them away from the house the day Michael Haight was served with the paperwork.
Macie Haight, Tausha’s oldest daughter, was excited that day, though. She told her own friends that she was glad for the divorce — which she described as “finally” happening — and hoped it would give her some space from her dad.
Briley, who was 12, agreed. She had been sleeping over with her friends and some neighbors, texting one to say, “Thank you for letting me come over. I needed a break from my house. My dad is terrible.”
But their hopes for getting away from the husband and father they described as volatile and demeaning lasted just a week.
Seven days later, he went through each room of the family’s house early on Jan. 4 and killed Tausha, the kids and Tausha’s mother before turning the gun on himself. His suicide note blamed his family’s treatment of him for what he did.
These details come from the Enoch Police Department’s final investigative report, released Friday evening of Easter weekend. It sheds new light on what happened in the days before the domestic violence killings roiled the small, rural community in southern Utah, where the family lived in a gray stucco home off Interstate 15.
But the police documents don’t offer any evaluation of how the family’s case was handled — even though both city officers and state child welfare workers knew about concerns for years about what was occurring behind the wreath-adorned door at 4923 N. Albert Drive. That included Macie reporting her concerns for a third time, weeks before the murders, to the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.
How to find help
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, 801-736-4356.
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.
Other high-profile cases in the state have led to investigations and reform. After University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey was killed, the campus police department was overhauled and officials eventually admitted to mistakes made in not acting on the information they had about the man who was harassing the track athlete.
There have been efforts to inspect the troubled teen industry, too, where teens had been reporting abuse at treatment schools. And the state has also looked into law enforcement use of force and police dogs.
The Division of Child and Family Services told The Salt Lake Tribune that internal and external reviews of its work did not flag any issues or make :recommendations for change.” The Tribune has requested copies of those reports.
“This Fatality Review has shown DCFS followed all policies and procedures in place,” said DCFS spokesperson Miranda Fisher in a statement. “It was also found that the social workers assigned to this particular case went above the required measures when dealing with a complex domestic violence case. ... DCFS is continuously reviewing practices and policies to ensure the best possible interventions and services to children and families are provided. When new methods or better practices are discovered DCFS implements change to ensure children are kept safe from abuse and neglect through the strengthening of families.”
Enoch did not have an answer on what the department may have learned from the case.
“We, as a community of caring and conscientiousness people, in our efforts to find something that will definitively uncover the clues, still cannot see how a person could hurt his family in this way,” said City Manager Rob Dotson in a statement to The Tribune.
In a news release that accompanied the report Friday, the town said its investigation is complete and instead encouraged good will moving forward.
“Enoch City officials invite everyone to do what good they can wherever they live and contribute to legitimate entities,” it said.
Tausha’s family asked for privacy over the holiday weekend.
The days before the murders
The 57-page report fills in some of the blanks of what friends, neighbors, officers, attorneys and social workers knew leading up the murders and suicide, largely confirming that Tausha and Macie repeatedly sought help.
That included the day of the murders.
Enoch officers were twice called on the morning and afternoon of Jan. 4 to do a welfare check on the family by concerned community members, first when Tausha missed an appointment and again when Michael hadn’t shown up to work at his insurance office in nearby Cedar City. He had left some personal documents out on his desk, which was unusual.
Officers went to the house first at 11 a.m., but their report noted: “No one appeared to be there.” They called the children’s school, which also reported the kids were not there. But the officers left without further inquiry.
They went again at 2 p.m., with the report noting, “The house was secure and nothing visible through the windows.” They left again. Dispatchers tried reaching the family by phone over the next two hours with no answer.
By 4 p.m. — five hours the first welfare call — concerned neighbors forced their way into the house to try to check on Tausha and the kids. When they saw the first body, they called police again.
Officers found deceased from multiple gunshot wounds 40-year-old Tausha, 78-year-old Gail Earl (Tausha’s mother, who had been staying at the home after the divorce papers were filed) and the children: 17-year-old Macie, 12-year-old Briley, 7-year-old Sienna, 7-year-old Ammon and 4-year-old Gavin.
Michael Haight, 42, was also dead.
The report gives explicit details of where the bodies were found throughout the house. The murders likely happened around 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 4 when the family was sleeping, according to the police report. A next-door neighbor later told police she thought the popping sounds she heard at that time were fireworks.
In late January, an unsealed search warrant revealed that days prior to the killings Michael made several Google searches asking what kind of noise a gun would produce inside a home, including “how loud is a 9mm gunshot,” “how loud is a 40mm pistol,” along with other related queries.
The investigative report also shows that he posted in an online forum: “If you heard a single gunshot in your neighborhood at night, would you immediately recognize it as such? Would you either way be alerted enough to call the police, or would you chalk it up to being just another sound in the night?”
That was on Dec. 30 — four days before he killed his family — and he spent nearly an hour on those searches, reading several articles about murder cases, including one about a man killing his girlfriend.
Police searched all of the phones and computers they found in the house after the killings. Nothing else on Michael’s devices revealed anything in the investigation, according to the report.
But messages on both Macie and Briley’s phones showed they had been texting friends about their dad acting strange and wanting to avoid his blowups.
In one, Briley texted her friend: “Help” with 21 exclamation points after it.
Her friend asked if she was OK. Briley responded, “No. But I wish I could tell you about it but I can’t. Sorry. I just needed to say that.”
On Dec. 28 — the day after her father was served with the divorce papers — Briley said her dad was being vicious toward her and saying he never did anything wrong.
“So I reminded him about all the insults and names he’s called me and he played dumb. How can he not remember calling his daughter a failure and a disappointment on her eighth birthday! I hate him”.
Briley also told a friend on Jan. 3 — the day before the murders — that she wanted her dad to move out, but he refused. Even his attorney, she said, told him he should. But he had moved down into their basement when Gail Earl, her grandma, came to stay at the house because Tausha was concerned.
In the days before she was killed, Macie also disclosed to a friend that she had a secret phone she was hiding in her room and used to record her dad whenever Michael was “acting crazy,” according to the police investigation.
The friend said Macie’s mom learned about the phone and took it away. That phone, though, was not found in the police search of the home, according to the report.
Previous police and child services reports
Police had known since 2020 that Macie was concerned about Michael’s treatment of her mom and siblings.
In an interview then with authorities, the family’s eldest daughter alleged multiple assaults, including one where she was choked by her father and “very afraid that he was going to keep her from breathing and kill her,” according to police records.
The investigation followed an Aug. 27, 2020, police call from a person who was not a family member reporting potential child abuse. Macie, then 14, told investigators that her father’s abusive behavior started in 2017.
The Enoch investigative report mentions that previous report several times, including a note from one officer saying he recognized Macie’s body when he was at the crime scene. “I recognized the decedent as a victim in a child abuse case that I have previously investigated with her father,” he wrote.
But officers in 2020 said the behavior from Michael — who denied assaulting his daughter — was only “close to assaultive” and the Iron County Attorney decided not to file criminal charges against him. Domestic and child abuse experts point to choking as a strong predictor of escalating violence. But the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, which also responded, also took no action.
The case was closed a few days later with a decision from the department indicating Macie was “safe,” according to records obtained from the division by The Tribune in a public records request.
She called again in January 2021 to say that Michael was screaming at Tausha while all of the kids were in the car on the freeway. He swerved the car hard — leaving several of the kids with red marks on their skin from their seatbelts, Macie said — to scare them all.
The report was “unaccepted” with a note saying there was “no disclosure of harm or threatened harm” by Macie, the records indicate.
The investigative police report and DCFS records note that Macie called child and family services investigators for a third report on Dec. 8.
The investigative report says that Enoch police were never told by DCFS about that third call, though, because DCFS concluded Macie was had made “no new allegations” and was repeating what she had told them in 2020. And the investigative police report concludes, too: “Everything she disclosed was already investigated in 2020 and was just brought back up again.”
But that doesn’t align with what the DCFS records show.
Those note that Macie reported new allegations about her father picking her 7-year-old brother up harshly, according to the documents.
An agent talked to Tausha after that claim, and Tausha reported a new incident with Michael and her son, Ammon. A case worker came to the house on Dec. 19 to talk about it; Tausha described Michael throwing Ammon on the ground when he didn’t want to go to school.
They advised her to call law enforcement if anything more severe came up.
The next entry in the DCFS case is when Tausha didn’t show up for an appointment with Canyon Creek Services, a local domestic violence organization, on Jan. 4 when she had been killed.
The DCFS reports concludes with a note about the murders: “Unfortunately this tragic incident occurred prior to further intervention.”
Tausha’s friends speak out
A friend told police that the moment Tausha realized she needed a divorce came in fall 2022.
The family had been reading scriptures in their living room after church. Briley was twisting a cable in her hands while they discussed the passages, bending it in curves and squiggles. Michael snapped at her to stop playing with the cord. Briley didn’t immediately respond.
Michael launched out of his chair and began yelling at Tausha, according to the friend, saying she had raised disrespectful and awful kids who didn’t listen. As he continued to berate her, the kids didn’t flinch.
Tausha told her friend she was shocked that the yelling and emotional abuse from their father had become so commonplace that her children were no longer fazed by it. And she feared Michael was taking his aggression out more often on the kids as time went on.
Tausha’s friends often came over, too, to help her clean so Michael wouldn’t have anything to yell at her for, according to the police report.
The couple had briefly separated in September 2021, and Tausha told her friends she was much happier without him. He moved back in, though, after promising to go to therapy.
Tausha told her friends, too, that Michael often called her fat. But when she started losing weight in fall 2022, he screamed at her and told her to stop and accused her of having an affair.
She often asked her friends if her marriage was normal, with Michael giving her an allowance. He once told her that she was taking food from her kids’ mouths when she got her nails done, the friends said. He instructed her to cut baby wipes in half and reuse plastic bags so they wouldn’t spend more money. He yelled at her for buying a $30 rug when the one in the house got soiled.
Tausha also shared with her friends that she believed Michael had emptied her children’s bank accounts, which each had $20,000 in them. She said she didn’t know what his motivation for that was.
On the day that Michael was served with the divorce papers, Tausha told her friend that he was acting weird. He called her and asked, “How’s your day going?” like nothing had happened.
He then changed his tone and told her not to take the children out of the home.
She did anyway, taking them to stay with her mom in La Verkin for a few nights. Michael came there, but Tausha told him to leave, according to the police report.
She and the kids returned to their Enoch house on the night of Dec. 31. They went to church on Sunday, Jan. 1, where they saw Michael, but Tausha told him not to sit with her and the kids. Neighbors told police he was visibly angry through the entire service, sitting a few rows behind them.
The final missed warning signs
Michael been acting strange, they said, leading up to that, too. Several members of the faith said they had gone to talk to Michael in recent weeks about insurance. He disclosed to them that he was leaving his job as an agent with Allstate and switching to private practice.
When asked why, Michael apparently told them he was being fired by the company because they believed he was fraudulently siphoning funds, as indicated by his bookkeeping. He couldn’t go to another company, according to state laws, because a violation like that would be attached to his license.
It doesn’t appear police knew about Michael losing his job, which would have been an additional indicator of instability and an escalating factor for domestic violence, according to studies. But there is a question about what church leaders knew and might have shared with law enforcement.
The DCFS record says that Tausha went to Latter-day Saint leaders several times to report concerns about Michael; those interactions were never passed on to police, records show. In Utah, anyone — including LDS bishops — who willfully fails to report abuse faces a class B misdemeanor. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ policy for responding to confessions about abuse, which was the focus of a recent investigation by The Associated Press, advises bishops to call a “help line” staffed by lawyers. It is unclear if that happened with the Enoch church leaders.
Tausha also met with her attorney on Jan. 2 and 3 and warned him that Michael had removed the guns from the family’s house, and she didn’t know where he had taken them.
That attorney later told police he didn’t feel that was critical information because he asked Tausha if she felt that she and her kids were at risk, and she said she didn’t think Michael would physically harm them.
He said Tausha seemed happy that last day they met, as the divorce was moving forward and she began thinking about the future.
A few hours later, police say, Michael recorded a video on his phone that became the last known time the family was alive.
He recorded a conversation on his phone of him and Tausha talking at 9 p.m. on Jan. 3; Gail Earl and the kids can be seen in the background. He begged Tausha to work things out with him, according to the police report. And he repeated several times: “I feel like you’re backing me into a corner.”
Tausha said, “No.” When Michael texted Tausha again later that night, around 10 p.m., she didn’t respond.