GRANTSVILLE — Crisis counselors were available at Grantsville area schools for students who needed to talk to someone about the quadruple homicide that killed four people in their community.
At Grantsville High School, the focus Tuesday was on the students and their emotional and mental health.
“They were just sweet, kind people. So, this is truly shocking,” said Marie Denson, communications director for the Tooele County School District.
School and district leaders were planning all weekend to welcome students back to school after the shooting.
“It impacted the entire community,” said Denson.
High school student Alexis Haynie, age 15, was among the four victims. The suspect, her brother, went to the same school. Extra crisis counselors were ready to listen to students at all schools in the district.
“Or, just take time together to write a note to the family, or to discuss what had happened with each other,” said Denson.
Dr. Todd Thatcher, the chief medical officer at Valley Behavioral Health in Tooele, told KSL the intensity of grieving depends on how close a person is to the tragedy.
“If that was one of your best friends, it’s something you’re really not going to forget about your entire life,” said Dr. Thatcher.
It usually takes a person three to six months to properly work through their grief, he said. Thatcher urged people struggling with the homicides or other trauma to seek out friends, clergy, and counselors, rather than turning to drugs or alcohol.
“Human beings tend to be very resilient people, and there are stages that people will go through,” said Thatcher.
The process can be tougher on teens, he said.
“Teens aren’t in control of everything about their life,” he said.
They may be affected by the way their family copes.
“For a teenager, a common problem is that their whole world is ‘today,’” said Thatcher. “They don’t have the experience of someone who is 30 or 40 years old, is an adult, who’s lived enough of life to look back and go, ‘It’s tough, but I’ll get through it because I’ve been through that before.’”
If you’re talking with your children about these kinds of issues, he recommended letting them drive the conversation, because it’s too easy for parents to jump in with their own emotions, and that can shut down the conversation.
The 16-year-old murder suspect who shot and killed his mother and three siblings will likely be charged formally Wednesday, according to the Tooele County Attorney. Prosecutors planned to review the case with investigators in the morning.
For a teenager, a common problem is that their whole world is 'today.' They don’t have the experience of someone who is 30 or 40 years old, is an adult, who’s lived enough of life to look back and go, 'It’s tough, but I’ll get through it because I’ve been through that before.'
–Dr. Todd Thatcher, chief medical officer at Valley Behavioral Health in Tooele
By state law, the teenaged family member who pulled the trigger will be charged as an adult because of his age and the severity of the crime. However, because he’s a juvenile, the death penalty is not a consideration.
There are resources available to parents for talking to children about traumatic events and situations.
- Valley Behavioral Services & Programs
- PDF: Helping Children & Teens Cope with Fear After a Death, from The Dougy Center
- Talking with Children about Tragic Events, from The Dougy Center
- Crisis Management Services from University of Utah U.N.I. Statewide Crises Services
- PDF: Guide for Parents, Caregivers and Teachers, from from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- PDF: Tips for Talking to Children after a Disaster, from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration