By SAM METZ
ENOCH, Utah (AP) — A Utah man fatally shot his five children, his mother-in-law and his wife, then killed himself two weeks after the woman had filed for divorce, according to authorities and public records.
Enoch Police Chief Jackson Ames said during a Thursday press conference that officers had been involved in investigations involving the 42-year-old man and his family a “couple of years prior.” He did not elaborate.
The crime rocked Enoch, a small town in southern Utah about halfway between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
It’s one of the fastest-growing areas of the country and communities of new homes are made up of large families that belong, like most of Utah, to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known widely as the Mormon church.
Enoch City Manager Rob Dotson said the deceased 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 Wednesday night. “This community at this time is hurting. They’re feeling loss, they’re feeling pain and they have a lot of questions.”
Officials said that they believed that Michael Haight had killed his wife, his mother-in-law and the couple’s five children, and that each of the victims had gunshot wounds.
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.
Tausha Haight and other members of the family were seen the night before the killings at a church group for young women, Mayor Geoffrey Chesnut said.
Police were dispatched to the family’s home Wednesday afternoon for a welfare check after someone reported that Tausha Height had missed an appointment earlier in the week, city officials said.
The victims were found inside the house. 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 he 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.”
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.
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 as she arranged the bouquet.
“It’s just one big community,” she said. “We all have one heavenly father.”
Archives from the local newspaper show that Haight’s first birthday was commemorated with an announcement in the local newspaper in 1981 alongside a baby picture of him laughing.
He was in Boy Scouts as a young boy and earned the “Faith in God” award as a fourth grader. Two years later in 1992, another newspaper article showed that he had won a “Gospel in Action” award from his church.
His picture appeared again in the newspaper in 1998 when he was finalist for an academic award in high school for business and marketing. After high school, he served a church mission in Brazil and then married Tuasha at a church temple in St. George, in 2003. She was from Overton, Nevada, located just two hours south of Cedar City, where he grew up.
As an adult, Haight worked as an insurance agent and Allstate gave him an award for customer satisfaction. His wife’s Facebook page showed pictures of the family looking happy in picturesque settings of Utah, and in front of a large statue of Jesus. Haight would have turned 43 on Jan. 7.
Associated Press news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York and reporter Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.