Michael Haight: Utah dad who killed wife, children and himself, was probed for child abuse 3 years ago
This article contains recollections of abuse that could be traumatic for some readers. Discretion is advised
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ENOCH, UTAH: A Utah man, who police say fatally shot his wife, her mother, and their five children before turning the gun on himself on January 4 at his home in Enoch, had been investigated two years prior. Michael Haight, 42, was investigated for child abuse on one of his daughters but local police and prosecutors decided not to charge him criminally.
The new records released Tuesday, January 17, by the Associated Press shed light on Michael's previous police inquiry into his violent behavior against his family. In December 2022, the Haights initiated divorce proceedings, as reported by ABC 4 News.
Why was Michael Haight investigated?
In 2020, following a report filed by a DCFS staffer, officials performed forensic interviews with Haight, his wife Tausha Haight, and the teen daughter, Macie Haight, then 14, in question. The incident report made no mention of why DCFS launched the investigation. The daughter informed interviewers that Michael had assaulted her more than once over the period of three years, according to the incident report. She specifically mentioned a situation in the family’s piano room where he “became angry at her and grabbed her by the shoulders. He shook her and her head banged into the wooden piece along the back of the couch.” The daughter told police that even though she wasn't wounded in the piano room, she was "mostly scared" and that she was "terrified" dad was going to hurt her, as reported by WHDN.
In another case, the daughter said that Haight grew "so angry at her that he grabbed her around the neck and choked her" while she was in the kitchen pantry. The daughter expressed concern that "he was going to keep her from breathing and kill her." The daughter, however, appears to have backtracked on her testimony, claiming that she did not lose her breath and that Haight did not choke her. In a third case, the daughter recounted an event in the home garage in which her father grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. She reported no injuries from the shaking.
The child reportedly told detectives that her father had yelled at her numerous times and had frequently disparaged her mother in front of her, labeling Tausha Haight "stupid" and "lazy." According to the story, defending Tausha would aggravate Michael. The daughter also claimed that her father took away her mother's cell phone in order to prohibit her from leaving the house.
What was the result of the investigation?
Haight was questioned by police personally in 2020. He rejected the daughter's claims of physical abuse on several occasions. He referred to his daughter as "mouthy," and he did acknowledge that he occasionally lost his anger with his children. In addition, he mentioned that his brother had recently divorced and that his father had recently died. Haight stated that he suspected his wife, Tausha, was discussing his mother and sister with his soon-to-be ex-sister-in-law, and that he did remove Tausha's cellphone and tablet to look at text conversations.
Haight was cautioned by police but they ultimately decided there wasn't enough evidence to press charges. Tausha asked police in a subsequent conversation if her family would be secure if Michael went back to his house. She reportedly expressed to police her hope that Michael would "wake up" as a result of the probe. She disagreed that her husband ought to be arrested as well. Ultimately, criminal charges were judged "not appropriate" by DCFS and the Iron County District Attorney's Office at the time, and the case was closed.
Recap of the murder-suicide
Two years later, authorities discovered eight dead at the family's house. Police suspect Michael committed the crime two weeks after his wife filed for divorce. Tausha informed family members that Michael had taken the family's guns out of the house in the days before the murder-suicide. Given that Tausha and her mother Gail Earl both had firearms training, she believed that having the guns taken away had left them "vulnerable."
District Attorney Chad Dotson said in a statement Tuesday, January 17, that his office did not charge Michael in 2020 because "there was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges," most likely due to "an inability to prove each element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt and/or statute of limitations barriers." Dotson, on the other hand, indicated that no interviews or police records from the investigation were ever sent to his office for "formal screening of charges."
“The Iron County District Attorney’s Office takes allegations of child abuse very seriously,” continued Dotson. “When law enforcement is unsure whether criminal charges are appropriate, cases are sent to our office to be formally screened. We review such cases and all associated reports and interviews in depth. Only then do we determine whether sufficient evidence exists to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.”
Last week's obituary in the St George Spectrum praised Michael as an Eagle Scout, businessman, and father who "made it a point to spend quality time with each and every one of his children." The obituary made no mention of the killings and was removed after public outrage.
The murder-suicide shook Enoch, an 8,000-person southern Utah community on the outskirts of Cedar City, where neighbors and members of the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints characterized the Haights as a lovely family, as reported by Yahoo News.