Speaking about the murder-suicide that claimed the lives of eight people in the small town of Enoch, City Manager Rob Dotson told reporters they might notice quivering voices and tear-filled eyes from the people joining in the somber press conference Thursday.

Dotson noted it was not because they were afraid to face the media in the wake of 42-year-old Enoch resident Michael Haight shooting and killing his wife, Tausha; their five children; his mother-in-law; and then himself.

Help for people in abusive relationships is available in Utah and nationwide

  • YWCA’s Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600
  • Utah statewide Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-897-LINK (5465) and udvc.org
  • 24-hour Salt Lake victim advocate hotline: 801-580-7969
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

It was indicative of the depth of the emotion they were experiencing, he explained.

Mayor Geoffrey Chestnut said the Haights were his neighbors. Their youngest children played in his yard with his sons.

In small rural communities like Enoch, Iron County, people are well acquainted and connect in multiple ways, whether their kids go to the same schools, they shop in the same grocery store or worship together.

As the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition explained in a statement, “The connections between all those directly involved when domestic violence occurs in smaller communities can be profound and overlapping.”

Living in a small town also can mean if someone dies of homicide, there is a greater likelihood that an intimate partner was involved.

“Approximately 20% of Americans live in rural communities, and homicides in rural communities are three times as likely to involve an intimate partner than in large cities,” the coalition said in a statement.

In Utah, 22.7% of homicide victims died in an intimate partner or domestic violence incident, according to coalition documents.

Jen Campbell, executive director of the coalition, said there is limited access to domestic violence services in many small towns in Utah and people may not know where to go to get help. They may be reticent to seek help, understanding that everyone tends to know one another in a small town, or some families may have been conditioned to mind their own business.

“Even now, we’re still fighting that idea that it’s not our business, that it’s a home issue or that’s not something for us to comment on. I think even just trying to figure out how to talk about violence in a healthy way is something often missing in all of our conversations, let alone in a place where it is very isolated or where there are smaller community circles,” Campbell said.

Small, rural service providers face unique challenges, said Kait Sorensen, executive director of the nonprofit victim services provider Canyon Creek Services, which serves Iron, Beaver and Garfield counties.

“We are a smaller area, which means there’s less money floating down from the Wasatch Front for us to be able to do what we need to do. It also means less opportunities to fundraise as a nonprofit,” Sorensen said.

It can be challenging for victims to seek help because “in a small town, as you can imagine, confidentiality is really difficult. You have people who are like, ‘Oh I saw so-and-so’s car in the parking lot,’” she said.

On the other hand, one of the benefits of a small, close-knit community is “our community does close around us. If we have a need, we feel like we can ask ... and people will show up,” Sorensen said.

Canyon Creek’s shelter is full and has been consistently for more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

Since the deaths of the Haights and Gail Earl, Canyon Creek has been working hard to support the community and serve as a resource for people who have questions.

“Everybody is rattled when you hear about that kind of violence,” she said. It can result in an increase in calls “because people will see their circumstances mirrored in some way, in comparison to what happened.”

For others, there is a chilling effect among people shocked and traumatized by these events, “so they’re not making big adjustments to their lives because they’re scared,” Sorensen said.

This tragedy sheds light on what victim services agencies need to meet the needs of their communities, she said.

“None of the programs in Utah have what they need to keep going. We’re stretched thin,” Sorensen said.

On top of the need for additional resources, Campbell said attitudes about violence need to evolve to the degree people feel more comfortable “naming and talking about violence and teaching everyone that it exists.”

“We’ve so long kind of stigmatized even talking about this, right? It’s always been like this, it’s something we don’t want to name or we don’t talk about it,” Campbell said.

There’s power in teaching children and communities to recognize power dynamics in relationships, she said, “and to feel empowered to say, ‘I am comfortable in this relationship,’ or, ‘I am uncomfortable in this relationship.’”

The Haight family, including Tausha Haight and Mike Haight and five children were found shot to death in a murder-suicide.
The Haight family, including Tausha Haight, 40, and Mike Haight, 42, and the children found shot and killed inside a home in Enoch, Iron County. Michael Haight killed his wife, children and mother-in-law before turning the gun on himself Wednesday, police say. | Haight family photo
‘Who am I going to ride bikes with now?’: A small Utah community’s shock after murder-suicide leaves 8 family members dead

Campbell said she is encouraged that Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson recognize the need for expanded domestic violence services in Utah. The governor’s recently announced budget recommendations to state lawmakers include $53 million in funding for victim services.

“That’s the first time that that has happened and that is huge,” she said.

Domestic violence services in Utah largely rely on federal funding and those dollars tend to “ebb and flow and it’s really decimating to an agency if suddenly you’re losing half your budget one year, depending on when those dollars come in,” Campbell said.

The Cox-Henderson administration’s proposal also calls for expansion of the Lethality Assessment Protocol, which is an evidence-based tool for on-scene identification of domestic violence victims who are at a high risk of fatal injury.

“Information sharing between law enforcement agencies can promote a better assessment of a singular violent incident and prevent intimate partner homicide. Almost half of Utah law enforcement agencies currently participate in the LAP tool. The governor recommends $1.3 million to expand this program and provide additional training for members of our law enforcement teams,” the governor’s budget recommendations state.

Enoch police, Cedar City police and the Iron County Sheriff’s Office all use the Lethality Assessment Protocol.

The proposal is highly personal to Henderson. After years of police reports, harassment and threats, her cousin, Amanda “Mandy” Mayne, was shot to death by her husband, Taylor Martin, last summer.

After her cousin was murdered, Utah’s lieutenant governor is pushing for statewide domestic violence assessments

Cox and Henderson have also recommended that the Utah Legislature appropriate $1.1 million to create the Utah Crime Victims Services Coordination Commission. The commission would provide a collective voice to victims and coordinate response across government and nonprofit agencies.

Sorensen said Cox and Henderson are leading an important movement.

“It’s not the end-all, be-all solution, but I think we definitely have individuals who are motivated to hear about our experiences,” she said.

Domestic violence service providers “have definitely been met with a lot more listening ears than we have in previous situations. We’re headed in the right direction.”

“We’re just desperate to make sure things like this don’t have to happen,” Sorensen said.

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s confidential hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) where trained advocates can help callers navigate services throughout the state including shelter, therapy and housing.

In the Enoch/Cedar City area, help is available at Canyon Creek Services by calling its hotline at 435-233-5732.