Estimated read time: 9-10 minutes
GRANTSVILLE — On the same Grantsville City Park field where Milan Haynie earned a reputation for being a fearless soccer player, hundreds of people gathered Monday night to remember and honor the 12-year-old, her older sister and brother, and her mother, all gunned down in their home three days earlier.
They stood huddled against the cold and the grief, candles in hand, to offer a show of love and support to a family suffering an almost unfathomable heartbreak. Earlier in the day, police identified the four people killed in a shooting Friday in a quiet Grantsville neighborhood as Consuelo Alejandra Haynie, 52, and three of her five children — 15-year-old girl Alexis Haynie, 14-year-old boy Matthew Haynie, and 12-year-old Milan.
The suspected shooter — who is a teenage member of the family — has remained in custody in a secure juvenile detention facility since surrendering to police “peacefully” Friday, but he has refused to talk to detectives, according to police. He has not been identified by police, but friends spoke openly about him, an older brother, encouraging the community to keep him in their prayers.
They also asked for faith on behalf of Colin Haynie, 50, the father of the family, who survived a gunshot wound to the leg. The couple’s oldest son was away at college when the shooting occurred.
Some in the crowd knew the family well and loved them fiercely, while others were strangers shaken so much by the tragedy they felt compelled to join in a display of love and unity that radiated hope.
“On so many levels this is so tragic for our community,” said family friend Diane Passey. “Not just for the mother and the four lives lost, but also for the poor young man who was in such a dark place. I feel so much compassion for him. ... I hope that as a community we can be kind and non-judgmental and reach out in love.”
Among the most moving moments of the hour-long vigil was when Patty Deakin-Daley read a letter to the crowd from the Haynie family.
“The depth of sorrow we feel is matched only by the overwhelming outpouring of love we feel from the Grantsville and surrounding communities,” it read. “The amount of love, compassion, consideration shown by churches, businesses and communities is deeply touching. Words cannot adequately convey the gratitude we have for your thoughts, prayers and well wishes. Please know that these are a great comfort and have given us strength to press forward. Please know that as you mourn with us, we also mourn with you. We pray that all may be comforted at this difficult time.”
The letter went on to say they appreciated hearing about those lost family members from friends who also loved and cherished them.
“We are finding for ourselves that as we mourn, it is beneficial — if not necessary — to cheer our spirits with good memories, and even a bit of laughter. We have benefitted by hearing the experiences that others have had with our family members. Some have been touching, others have been comical. All have helped us remember our dear family members as they loved and were loved by others.”
Grantsville High junior Faith Goodsell played soccer with Alexis, and said she constantly “told me how capable and amazing I was, that I was beautiful and I could do anything.” Another boy said “she was always challenging people to arm wrestle. I could never beat her. ... I loved Alexis so much. I’m really going to miss her.”
Matthew's friends described him as quiet but kind, and never without a smile. Friends recalled Scout trips and his willingness to lend a helping hand.
One teenage boy walked to the microphone to express how painful it was to know someone he felt was one of his closest friends felt so lonely and isolated. Another friend of the suspected shooter said the tragedy has given him pause because he thought his friend was fine.
“Check on your friends,” he urged.
The children’s mother, who friends called Alex, was described as a dedicated, talented gardener who was always willing to help others. She was an impressive cook, generous with her creations, even making all of the cupcakes for the wedding of one of her oldest son’s friends.
“Whenever I saw and talked to Alex, it was clear she loved her children,” Passey said. “If you could scroll through her Facebook page and you talked to her much, you know that her focus and her love was her family and her children and her Savior.”
She said all of the Haynie children worked hard in school and were as service-oriented as their parents.
A Bountiful man, who walked to the microphone with tear-streaked cheeks, said he’d met Colin Haynie years ago in Arizona and the two ended up working together at the man’s company. Haynie and his wife invited the man to their home to play games and eat meals, as he was single.
“It’s good to remember the importance of reaching out,” Passey said. “We feel sorrow because we love. We feel hurt because people hold a special place in our hearts and it’s the price we pay to be human and to be on this earth. ... If we can turn that sorrow into service, reach out and recognize the one who may be lonely and needs a friend. And we can be less judgmental toward each other and learn to love those who are different from us.”
Holding back sobs, Passey quoted Psalms, “‘We may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.’ ... Sometimes it feels like a really long night.”
A few hours earlier, police and the mayor answered questions and thanked the community for an outpouring of support.
“We appreciate the outpouring of support from our loving community and the surrounding area,” Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall said at a news conference at Grantsville City Justice Center Monday afternoon. “Our hearts go out to the families, loved ones and the close knit neighborhood affected by this emotional tragic incident.”
The teen suspected in the shooting has been booked into a secure juvenile detention facility for investigation of four counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted aggravated murder, and multiple counts of felony discharge of a firearm, according to Grantsville Police Cpl. Rhonda Fields.
Fields did not have any details about how he got the firearm, or how and why the shooting occurred.
“Detectives continue to tirelessly gather information in this case,” Fields said. “It is an active investigation, and to protect the integrity of this case, more details will be released at a later time. We appreciate everyone’s patience and support, and as a reminder we ask that you please respect the wishes of family members by giving them privacy though keeping them in your prayers.”
Investigators will “do their best,” Fields said, to piece together the evidence and a timeline to sort out what happened and prevent anything similar from ever happening again.
“There are a lot of questions that we would like to answer. Unfortunately there are some questions we may never be able to answer,” Fields said. “Because the biggest question that everybody has is, ‘Why?”
The suspected shooter, who did not have any injuries, was arrested at a hospital where he and his father, Colin Haynie, who was injured in the shooting, were driven by a person who is unrelated to the family and had called 911 after coming to the house. The father has since been released from the hospital and has asked for privacy during this time, Fields said.
Surviving members of the Haynie family include the father and the eldest son, Danny Haynie, who is a 24-year-old student at Utah Valley University, according to social media posts.
The father has spoken with investigators, Fields said, but did not provide additional details about what he has said, saying it’s part of police’s ongoing investigation.
It’s unclear if the father was at the home when the shooting occurred, Fields said, noting that’s part of the police investigation.
The surviving father and adult son are “going through something they have never even imagined,” Fields said, noting they have asked for privacy as they go through such a “difficult time.”
Hours after the shooting Friday, Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted condolences over the “horrible news” and the “loss of innocent lives” out of Grantsville. He also urged families to lock up their guns.
“Parents and grandparents, secure your firearms!” Herbert tweeted. “Everyone, hug your loved ones tight. And remember love, not hate, will heal broken individuals and families.”
Fields said making sure firearms are secure in a household is “a recommendation that is always given,” but she added “we don’t believe there is any concern of him getting that gun outside of the household.”
“We have not been able to say for sure who the gun owner was, but we don’t have any concerns about how he obtained it,” Fields said.
The fatal shooting has rocked the tight-knit community of Grantsville and Tooele County, where there has been a massive showing of support for the family.
As of Monday evening, nearly $85,000 had been raised in a Facebook fundraiser to cover funeral and medical expenses for the Haynie family.
The killing of three children ranging from middle school to high school age has impacted multiple schools, “which affects hundreds of students, hundreds of children across our community,” Fields said.
“It’s been a huge incident for all of us to be a part of,” Fields said, noting police have been in contact with school resource officers to provide counseling and ensure students will be prepared to return to school Tuesday. “The school is definitely prepared for children tomorrow and throughout the rest of the week whenever they need help.”
The shooting has jarred the city of Grantsville, where Friday’s events are heartbreaking to a “small community” with “not a lot of crime,” Fields said.
“Especially whenever it includes our juveniles, our youth that we’re working so hard to protect and to raise to be safe and know they can come home, be at a safe home, go to school and stay safe,” Fields said. “That’s something that we pride ourselves on so it’s hard to take, it’s hard to accept that something like that has happened in our small community.”