FAMILY SAFETY

How Utah domestic violence policy has changed one year after Enoch murders

Jan 4, 2024, 7:43 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2024, 6:03 pm

TAYLORSVILLE — It’s been one year since the murder of an entire family in a small Utah town sent horror rippling through the state, sparking the community to search for answers and action in the arena of domestic violence.

On Jan. 4, 2023, police came upon a grisly discovery in the Haight family household in Enoch, Utah.

Police identify 7 victims, suspect found shot to death in Enoch, Utah home

Husband and father Michael Haight shot and killed his wife, Tausha Haight, their five children, and Tausha Haight’s mother Gail Earl. He then died by suicide.

“The case of the whole family that was killed in Enoch — that was right before the legislative session started,” said Erin Jemison, director of public policy for the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, sometimes called the UDVC.

The Haight family’s unthinkable outcome was fresh on everyone’s minds heading into the 2023 session.

“That happening, I think, it just put it front and center at a time when they were all considering legislation,” Jemison said. “And there wasn’t much resistance to domestic violence legislation, and there was true support for more resources.”

At the time, it was up to each police agency in the state whether or not to implement the Lethality Assessment Protocol — or LAP — questionnaire when responding to domestic violence calls.

According to the UDVC, the LAP questionnaire can help assess if victims are at high risk of violence, and it can help those victims get connected to life-saving resources faster.

In Tausha Haight’s case, reports revealed that she called police on her husband in 2020 over reports of abuse against one of their children and that Michael Haight admitted to losing his temper and yelling at his children. Tausha Haight told officers that she hoped it was a “wake-up call” for Michael Haight.

According to the results of a LAP later released to the public, Tausha Haight answered “no” to most of the questions. However, the caller who requested a welfare check on her the morning she was found dead disclosed to police that Michael Haight was violent and had access to guns — which are potential markers in a LAP questionnaire that could trigger resource referral and help.

Lt. Nick Street with the Department of Public Safety’s Statewide Information Analysis Center — called SIAC — said about 50% of law enforcement agencies in Utah were using the LAP questionnaire a year ago, but all the statistics were kept within each department.

There was no sharing of results and no tracking of aggressors.

After the Haight murders, flames were fanned toward legislation like SB117, which mandated all police agencies in the state get on the same page when responding to domestic violence calls and using the LAP questionnaire across the board.

The bill passed, and the program was unrolled in July. The legislature also allocated more funding toward helping victims of domestic violence.

KSL+: Curbing domestic violence at the State Capitol

“Law enforcement have a more standardized tool to lean on in very complex cases and very difficult calls that they’re getting,” Jemison said. “We’re able to connect people who need help to shelter, to services, to therapy, to case management, to safety planning.”

All state agencies now use the LAP questionnaire, and all agencies report results to a state dashboard, so the analysis center can compile and keep track of the data.

From July to December 2023, 144 agencies submitted 5,771 LAPs, according to data SIAC provided to KSL TV.

A majority of the LAPs, 63%, were assessed as “potentially lethal,” versus “not potentially lethal.” More than 600 offenders, which is about 10%, were involved in prior LAPs.

“We’re able to now utilize a lot of data points that are coming in for domestic violence that we otherwise at the state level wouldn’t have seen,” Street said.

He said police officers who conduct LAPs can see if an offender was involved in a prior LAP, even if it was with another victim in another jurisdiction. Details like that can give context and nuance as the officer handles a call and works with a victim, he explained.

They’re able to track which questions have the most “yes” answers. The top one? “Aggressor is Violently Jealous or Controlling.” Second is the question about separation after cohabitation, and third is that the aggressor follows, spies, or leaves threatening messages.

New legislation that could help with domestic violence resources

Street pointed out that despite more than half of LAPs being deemed “potentially lethal,” the top three questions themselves are not about lethal action. He said that having that information doesn’t just benefit the state, it benefits domestic violence victims.

“Now, that victim, in answering those questions, can be informed with that level of risk that those questions are researched to provide,” he said.

Street said a huge outcome is that more officers are referring domestic violence victims to resources, potentially saving lives.

“Arming them with information to be better informed in moving forward with victim service providers, and getting resources that are required to get themself out of an unsafe situation,” Street said.

Going forward, Street said they’re hoping to use the data to find additional trends and pinpoint where the state can better allocate resources.

In the months since the statewide LAP policy has been implemented, Jemison described how service providers are seeing a 50 to 80% increase, as more people come forward for help.

“The Lethality Assessment is not the end-all-be-all to solving domestic violence in Utah,” Jemison said. “But when it comes to helping us reach the folks who need the most help, it is working.”


Domestic violence resources

If you or someone you know is going through abuse, help is available.

Stories talking about child abuse

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Child abuse resources:

  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online: udvc.org. The statewide child abuse and neglect hotline is 1-855-323-DCFS (3237).

Help with Children

Those who feel stressed out with a child, who need a break or who feel like they need counseling or training can reach out to one of the following agencies:

  • The Family Support Center has 15 locations throughout the state and offers a free crisis nursery for parents who have to keep appointments or who are stressed out. They also offer counseling and family mentoring. Call 801-955-9110 or visit familysupportcenter.org/contact.php for more information.
  • Prevent Child Abuse Utah provides home visiting in Weber, Davis, and Box Elder counties. Parent Educators provide support, education, and activities for families with young children. Their statewide education team offers diverse trainings on protective factors, digital safety, bullying, and child sex trafficking. They are available for in-person or virtual trainings and offer free online courses for the community at pcautah.org.
  • The Office of Home Visiting works with local agencies to provide home visits to pregnant women and young families who would like to know more about being parents. Home visitors are trained and can provide information about breastfeeding, developmental milestones, toilet training, nutrition, mental health, home safety, child development, and much more. Find out more at homevisiting.utah.gov.

The Safe Haven law allows birth parents in Utah to safely and anonymously give up custody of their newborn child at any hospital in the state, with no legal consequences and no questions asked. The child’s mother can drop off the child, or the mother can ask someone else to do it for her. The newborns should be dropped off at hospitals that are open 24 hours a day. Newborns given up in this manner will be cared for by the hospital staff, and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services will find a home for the child. For more information, visit utahsafehaven.org or call the 24-hour hotline at 866-458-0058.

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How Utah domestic violence policy has changed one year after Enoch murders