Police investigated child abuse report 2 years before Enoch murders
Jan 17, 2023, 4:57 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2023, 9:38 am
SALT LAKE CITY — It can be almost impossible to know what’s going on in someone else’s home.
But in 2020, authorities got a sense of the violent and controlling behavior a teen girl said her father carried out over about three years in their house on a quiet street in Enoch.
More than two years before Michael Orwin Haight shot and killed his family and himself, the city’s police department investigated a report that he’d assaulted his eldest daughter multiple times, choking her at one point and grabbing her by the shoulders to shake her at others.
“The allegations also include a lot of yelling and emotional abuse,” the documents say.
Police and Iron County prosecutors ultimately chose not to pursue criminal charges for Michael Orwin Haight, although an officer advised Haight the behavior “was very close to assaultive.”
His daughter reported Michael Haight grabbed her shoulders and shook her while in their garage two weeks before police arrived, but also did so three years earlier, banging her head on the wooden surface behind a couch. The following year, he choked her in their kitchen, the report states. The girl told police she was afraid her father would kill her during the choking episode, but she didn’t ultimately lose her breath.
Police say Haight took his own life on Jan. 4 after fatally shooting his wife, Tausha Haight, along with their five children —Macie, 17; Brilee, 12; twins Sienna and Ammon, 7; and Gavin, 4 — along with his mother-in-law, Gail Earl. The killings came two weeks after his wife filed for divorce.
City officials alluded to prior issues in the home the day after the shooting but didn’t provide details.
“There will be questions that everybody asks themselves,” Enoch city manager Rob Dotson said in the news conference. “’What if I had done this, what if I had done that?’ Those aren’t very good questions to ask.”
The city’s police force is among several in Utah that now have a lethality assessment protocol — questionnaires designed to determine a person’s risk of being killed by a loved one or ex — when they respond to domestic violence. It wasn’t clear if the department used the evaluation in the 2020 case.
The 11-question survey asks a victim whether the aggressor has ever tried to choke them, has a gun or can get one easily, or spies on them. Enough yes answers and police call a shelter that can help find a safe place to stay or craft an escape plan.
Enoch police did not respond to requests for interviews left Tuesday.
Macie Haight told officers her father had taken his wife’s cell phone to keep her from leaving the house, and “always tells her how stupid and lazy Tausha is. She stated that when she defends her mom it makes him angrier,” the report said.
It’s not clear whether anyone else witnessed the events laid out in the report. The one other interview documented in the report is Michael Haight’s conversation with investigators.
Haight said he sometimes loses his temper, but denied belittling his wife and said he did not mean to assault his daughter, calling the case a misunderstanding, the document says.
“He stated that Macie is mouthy and he gets angry at her,” the report continues, noting he was having a tough time because of his father’s recent death and his brother’s divorce.
He admitted he’d taken his wife’s iPad for several days and had also taken her cellphone to look at texts and messages, saying “he thought she might be talking about his mom,” the report states. But he denied taking the tablet when Tausha Haight asked him about it and later “slipped it back where it would be found at the house.”
Tausha Haight told the officer she hoped the case would be a “wake-up call” for her husband, the report says, and while she didn’t want criminal charges filed, she wanted to know if her family would be safe.
“I told her there was no indication that there would be any violent behavior on Michael’s part,” the officer wrote in the police report, noting he’d told her to call 911 if problems arise.
The investigation followed a call to authorities on Aug. 27, 2020, which involved the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS). After looking into the allegation, an employee with the agency told Enoch police “that they would most likely not have a supported finding either,” the report says.
DCFS did not answer questions KSL asked about the case, saying privacy law precludes the agency from releasing further information beyond what is included in the police report.
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Domestic violence resources
If you or someone you know is going through abuse, help is available.
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465).
- Resources are also available online at the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition website.
- In an emergency, call 911
There are several ways the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition can help people. Previous examples include providing financial assistance for funerals, for moving, for a variety of things, counseling that help people find a different path or stay healthy and safe and the relationship they’re in.