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Small community of Enoch looks for a way forward after ‘surreal’ tragedy

Murder-suicide that left 8 members of same family dead has residents and officials asking, ‘What do we do now?’

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Kait Sorensen, executive director of Canyon Creek Services, a nonprofit organization that’s a community based victim services provider, talks about how the residents of Enoch and the surrounding area are gathering together to get through the Haight family murder-suicide, at the organization offices in Cedar City on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

In August 2021, a devastating storm swept through the small town of Enoch, Iron County, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City, flooding the streets and causing millions of dollars in damages there and in nearby Cedar City.

The flash flooding emergency made national news, and in the days that followed a community effort took shape to rebuild homes that were damaged and support the families impacted.

“We banded together, we worked together. There was lots of hugs and tears, and looking after each other,” said Enoch City Councilman Richard Jensen. “We’ll do the same.”

On Wednesday, Enoch again made national headlines after a murder-suicide that claimed eight members of the same family rocked the community and its roughly 7,500 residents.

Police say 42-year-old Michael Haight shot and killed his wife Tausha Haight, their five children and Gail Earl, his mother-in-law, before turning the gun on himself. The family was found deceased in their single-family home in a suburban neighborhood after someone who Tausha had an appointment with requested a welfare check when she didn’t show up.

Funeral services were held Friday for Tausha Haight and her five children in La Verkin, Washington County.

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

The victims include the couple’s 17-year-old daughter, 12-year-old daughter, 7-year-old daughter, 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old son, whose names have not yet been released. Court records show Tausha had filed for divorce about two weeks before the shooting.

On Friday, both families of Michael and Tausha Haight released statements of grief. The family of Michael Haight, released through an attorney, said they were “absolutely devastated and completely heartbroken by the tragic loss of life.” The statement from Tausha’s family, posted on Facebook, said they’re trying to “make sense of this unthinkable tragedy,” while expressing deep gratitude to the community.

“The question to ask is, what do we do now?” said Enoch City Manager Rob Dotson, during an emotional press conference Thursday.

The mood in Enoch and Cedar City was palpable, perhaps heightened by the dreary weather that brought gray skies and a biting rain. On Thursday morning, gas stations, restaurants and coffee shops carried an unusually heavy weight, residents said, extending into Friday.

“It’s all anyone is talking about,” said one hotel clerk.

“I didn’t know them, but it’s hard not to feel depressed about it,” said a barista.

“It’s surreal. Totally surreal,” one of the Haights’ neighbors said, speaking from the other side of the yellow crime scene tape that, as of Friday, still blocked off most of the street.

In the hours that followed the shooting, an impromptu memorial took shape at the end of Albert Drive, where the Haights lived. One neighbor brought a small bench to the corner for residents to place flowers. By the end of the day, bouquets and stuffed animals began to pile up.

Counseling services opened up across the town, from schools in Iron County to nearby wards in Enoch. A local metal fabricator started an auction, promising its proceeds would go toward supporting the family.

“There’s a family in Cedar with 8 caskets to buy tonight,” the company posted on its Facebook page.

Enoch is a small enough town that, as roughly a dozen people told the Deseret News, “everybody knows everybody.” The Haight children attended three different schools, and parents on Thursday were faced with the grim task of explaining to their children why some of their peers will no longer be in class.

“There’s only one elementary school in town, everyone goes to the same school,” Jensen said.

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Summer Trammeling of Enoch adds to the memorial across the street from the Haight home in Enoch, Iron County, on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Earlier in the week, police say a man shot seven members of his family before taking his own life. Trammeling’s daughters were friends with two of the Haight daughters.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

At Canyon Creek Services, a nonprofit with an office in Cedar City that provides help and shelter to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, employees went to work “hungry” to jump in and help the community, said Kait Sorensen, executive director.

“We always refer to Mr. Rogers saying, ‘Look for the helpers.’ And all of us, I think, self-identify as the helpers,” she said.

After such a high-profile tragedy, Sorensen says it’s hard to predict what’s next for other victims of domestic abuse in the area — sometimes, they’ll see an increase in calls, and “people will see their circumstances mirrored,” she said. Or, there can also be a chilling effect, with the shock and trauma instilling a sense of fear, where victims won’t want to make any big life adjustments.

If anything, Sorensen said, it’s a heartbreaking example of why victim services are so essential.

“It highlights why we have to be able to absorb all of the needs,” she said. “None of the programs in Utah have what they need to keep going, we’re stretched thin.”

Speaking from her office in Canyon Creek Services’ quaint log cabin, furnished with toys for children and staffed with counselors and coordinators, Sorensen echoed a common sentiment that for months to come will ring loud in Cedar City and Enoch.

“How do we go back to living our lives? Taking our kids to school? Driving past the business that we’re used to driving by? If we’ve learned anything from experiencing tragedy, it’s that we do it together.”