KSL INVESTIGATES

Enoch police, city officials do not intend to review handling of 2020 child abuse investigation

Jan 18, 2023, 10:03 PM | Updated: 10:57 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Revelations from newly released Enoch Police Department records are sparking sharp reactions among Utahns and questions about whether investigators missed critical red flags ahead of a mass shooting.

Two years before Michael Haight is believed to have killed his family and then himself inside their Enoch home earlier this month, records obtained by the KSL Investigators show local police investigated claims against him of child abuse.

Haight’s wife, Tausha Haight, their five children —Macie, 17; Brilee, 12; twins Sienna and Ammon, 7; and Gavin, 4 — along with his mother-in-law, Gail Earl, were shot and killed on Jan. 4.

Records obtained by the KSL Investigators reveal the eldest daughter, Macie, who was 14 at the time, told police about several incidents in which her father’s anger turned physical, including a time when he grabbed her around the neck and she feared for her life.

“That would be immediate force, making the threat, they don’t even have to impede the breathing,” explained Justin Boardman, a retired Utah detective who is now a law enforcement consultant. “If he grabs her, that fits the statute, to a T, of felony child abuse, aggravated assault.”

Boardman reviewed the records from the 2020 investigation. While acknowledging that we now have the benefit of hindsight, he said parts of the police report are concerning.

“The warning signs of a potential homicide in the future are screaming out on this documentation,” he said.

According to the report, Enoch police consulted prosecutors before closing the case – deciding not to file criminal charges. Since the murders, Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services, which also investigated Macie’s claims of abuse, has initiated a standard internal review of their involvement in the 2020 investigation.

According to a statement released by DCFS spokesperson Sarah Welliver Wednesday, the division’s critical incident review process “involves DCFS regional and state leadership, and any other relevant DCFS staff to go over the current case, case history, any concerns, and discuss if changes in policy and practice are needed.”

“A second review process for fatalities and near fatalities is also done at the department level, and involves community partners in law enforcement, the medical field, and is also added to a yearly review by the Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel for any necessary formal recommendations,” Welliver wrote.

She noted a third, independent investigation would be conducted by the Office of the Medical Examiner, which is also involved in the other two review processes.

Through city manager Rob Dotson, police and city officials in Enoch told the KSL Investigators they stand by the handling of the prior abuse investigation, and they have no plans for an internal review of the 2020 case. They are not participating in interviews with local journalists.

“In my opinion, that is not the right call,” Boardman said.

Boardman believes there is always value in looking back and reviewing cases, not only for the officers involved, but for the broader community. “Having a casefile review is very helpful, if it’s not one of pointing fingers and it’s more collaborative,” he said. “So, we are learning from our mistakes, and it’s not in a finger pointing sort of way, it’s very illuminating on the gaps of services, and education, and then we can fill in those gaps.” Based on his review of the records released, Boardman said he would recommend additional training for the department on domestic violence, strangulation, and report writing.

“Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know,” he said. “As officers, we’re a jack of all trades. We’re kind of like the Swiss Army knife – We have a bunch of everything. We know a little bit about a lot. – And that’s okay, that’s what we do. But we don’t have significant training in this area.”

In an email to KSL Wednesday, Dotson wrote, “After discussing with our legal counsel and the police chief, they believe the information in the press release and the police reports is sufficient and that case is closed.”

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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Enoch police, city officials do not intend to review handling of 2020 child abuse investigation