A newspaper that published a glowing obituary for a Utah father who allegedly killed his entire family of seven in a suspected murder-suicide has taken the piece down after facing furious backlash.
Michael Haight, 42, is accused of shooting dead his wife Tausha, 40; their five children Macie, Briley, Sienna, Ammon and Gavin, aged 4 to 17; and Tausha’s mother Gail Earl, 78, before turning the gun on himself at their home in Enoch City on 4 January.
Police are still investigating the motive but believe that Haight went on the shooting rampage after learning that his wife had recently filed for divorce.
The bodies of the eight family members – all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – were discovered when officers were called to the home to carry out a welfare check.
Despite the horror of what happened, an obituary for Haight, published by local newspaper The Spectrum on 11 January, made no mention of the brutal mass murder that he is accused of carrying out.
Instead, the 42-year-old was remembered as a parent who “cherished” the children he allegedly shot dead.
“Each of these children were truly a cherished miracle to them,” it read.
“Michael made it a point to spend quality time with each and every one of his children. Michael enjoyed making memories with the family.”
The fawning obituary went on to describe him as someone who “lived a life of service” and “excelled at everything he did”.
“Michael lived a life of service. Whether it was serving in the church or in the community, he was willing to help with whatever was needed,” it read.
Six days after the obituary was published, it was scrubbed from The Spectrum’s website.
A spokesperson for the paper confirmed the removal to Gizmodo.
“Obituaries may be written and submitted by funeral homes, as was the case here,” the spokesperson said. “The Spectrum removed the obituary due to the circumstances and sincerely regrets any distress this may have caused.”
The obituary drew widespread outrage after being shared on Twitter by gun control activist Shannon Watts, who also pointed out a bizarre photo on a GoFundMe page set up for the victims’ family members.
The image features Haight’s image replaced by an image of Jesus.
“The family removed the murderer’s image from their GoFundMe photo and replaced him with … white Jesus,” she wrote on Twitter.
Social media users slammed the obituary and the GoFundMe – which has so far topped $94,000 in donations.
“This is gross — so centered on the murderer and not the innocent family. The family is using religion for cover but my LDS friends would not remotely condone any of this including centering and excusing the perpetrator,” one person tweeted.
Another person commenting on the GoFundMe page wrote: “This man murdered his wife, children, and mother-in-law all because his wife wanted a divorce.
“There is no way Jesus Christ would ever condone this sort of EVIL. And the fact that you’re all out here claiming he’s a good man?”
In a follow-up tweet, Ms Watts also described comments made by Haight’s family as “gross” after they suggested that their deaths could have been prevented if they had access to more guns.
“If that’s not gross enough, the wife’s family put out a statement supporting … guns,” she tweeted.
Tausha’s sister-in-law Jennie Earl previously told the Associated Press that Haight had removed all the guns from the family’s home before carrying out the attack – a move which she said had left the victims “vulnerable”.
“Protective arms were purposely removed from the home prior to the incident because all adults were properly trained to protect human life,” she said in a statement.
“This is the type of loss that will continue to occur in families, communities and this nation when protective arms are no longer accessible.”
Investigators have revealed that the family was known to law enforcement years before the killings.
Enoch City Police Chief Jackson Ames said that officers “had been involved in investigations with the family a couple years prior” but would not reveal the nature of those investigations.
The shootings sent shockwaves around the close-knit Mormon community of Enoch, with the local mayor calling it “a tremendous blow to many, many families”.
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