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ENOCH, Iron County — In the days leading up the the horrific killings of seven members of a southern Utah family, the gunman — the husband and father of the family — removed guns from the house, a relative said Friday.
Michael Haight had removed guns from the home that were owned by himself and his wife, Tausha Haight, prior to the shooting deaths. Tausha Haight told her extended family that her husband took the guns from the family's home this week, Haight's sister, Jennie Earl, told the Associated Press.
She said she did not know how Tausha Haight felt about the removal, but said it "left the family vulnerable," noting that both her sister and her mother, Gail Earl, were trained in gun safety and personal protection.
While Earl says it is unknown whether having those guns in the home would have changed the outcome, she says if either Tausha Haight or Gail Earl had a chance to defend their family, they would have been able to use those guns.
"They would have because they had the skills to do it," she said.
The families of both parents issued prepared statements on Friday. The family of Tausha Haight, whose maiden name is Earl, talked about the removal of the guns and cautioned members of the public and the media from using the family's story for any political agenda.
"Protective arms were purposely removed from the home prior to the incident because all adults were properly trained to protect human life. This is the type of loss that will continue to occur in families, communities and this nation when protective arms are no longer accessible. It is our desire that the media turn their attention to the weightier matters surrounding this event," said the statement signed by "the Boyd and Gail Earl family."
"In place of political advocacy, we would encourage reporting about the value of all human life, the great works of God that can render a forgiving heart, how religion can heal and enlarge our capacity for love, and a return to foundational principles of peace within our nation.The reality is this tragedy serves as a call to the memory of God, religion, freedom, peace and family, and the efforts that are required to maintain those freedoms."
Enoch City Manager Rob Dotson said local law enforcement was not involved in the removal of the weapons, saying police "never had reason and has never had to remove firearms."
The family of Michael Haight on Friday said they are "absolutely devastated and completely heartbroken by the tragic loss" of Haight, his wife, his mother-in-law and the Haights' five children.
"We express our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the entire Earl family along with the many families, friends and neighbors whose lives have been impacted by these eight incredible human beings," the family said.
Michael Haight, 42, is believed to have shot and killed his wife, Tausha Haight, 40; Haight's mother-in-law, 78-year-old Gail Earl; and Haight's children — three daughters ages 17, 12, and 7 and two sons, ages 7 and 4 — inside their Enoch home before taking his own life.
All eight bodies were found in their home Wednesday at 4923 N. Albert Drive after police were asked by concerned family and friends to conduct a welfare check. The killings came two weeks after Tausha Haight had filed for a divorce.
The statement from Tausha Haight's family also thanked the community for its support.
"As we try to make sense of this unthinkable tragedy we wish to express our gratitude for the outpouring of prayers, love, kindness and support. It is during times like these that our thoughts are drawn toward a loving and all knowing God who created a beautiful plan of salvation that extends far beyond the mortal loss of those most precious to us. The hurt and humility felt through these experiences only serves to draw us closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and to express our overwhelming gratitude for his infinite, beautiful and powerful atonement. We invite all to seek the peace that can only be found through Him," the Earls said.
The family expressed their appreciation to the residents of Enoch and all of the first responders who have been part of the investigation, and also encouraged anyone still struggling "with this insensible loss" to "find the strength to reach out for appropriate help."
The statement released by Michael Haight's family is signed by "the Robin and Brenda Haight family." Attorney Matt Munson is representing the family.
"The family is just heartbroken and devastated," he said. "Certainly no one saw this coming."
In their statement, the Haights expressed gratitude "to all who have reached out to express love and support during this most difficult time.
"We are humbled by the incredible outreach and generosity of our community. Your prayers have been felt, your messages received and our hearts are uplifted by your kindness. To all those who have assisted in any manner with this tragic event, know of our deepest gratitude for your service. May we continue to help and strengthen one another during this difficult time," the family continued. "It is our fervent prayer that through faith in Heavenly Father and in our Savior, Jesus Christ, that there can be peace and comfort to the hearts of all those who join us in mourning the loss of these eight beautiful lives."
The family said funeral arrangements will be announced once they are finalized. Enoch officials said Thursday that the bodies of the victims were taken to the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office for autopsies, which were expected to happen Friday.
The horrendous killings have left the southern Utah community of 7,500 residents just north of Cedar City in shock. Some residents and those who knew the Haights say they did not see any red flags during the divorce proceedings and the fact that Michael Haight committed the crimes makes the scenario even more shocking.
James Park, who represented Tausha Haight in her divorce, said she had not expressed any fear that her husband would physically hurt her. He said he met with Tausha Haight only twice, most recently on Tuesday, and she "was an incredibly nice lady."
As of Friday, the names of the Haight children had not been officially released. The Iron County School District says the children went to four of their schools, ranging in grades from preschool to high school.
Contributing: Associated Press
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