Two weeks before Michael Haight killed his family, DCFS was in his home investigating allegations of threats and abuse
Family services division opened investigation in December into allegations of threats and abuse, but Michael Haight was never interviewed
On Dec. 19, 2022, a caseworker with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services walked inside a quaint, single-family home in the newly constructed suburbs of Enoch, Utah. The house was clean, according to the caseworker’s notes, with a kitchen stocked with food and the children’s rooms free of hazards — in other words, no visible signs of neglect.
The caseworker was there to discuss a concerning incident that happened a few days earlier involving 42-year-old Michael Haight and his 7-year-old son, Ammon.
Ammon was sick, and Tausha Haight, his mother, said he didn’t need to get ready for school. But Michael didn’t believe his son. He got angry, and allegedly threw Ammon on the floor, then left for work.
Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition: Utah’s confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465)
- YWCA Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600
- Utah’s statewide child abuse and neglect hotline: 1-855-323-DCFS (3237)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
By the time the caseworker entered the Haights’ home, interviews had already been conducted with Tausha, the couple’s oldest daughter Macie, and a person familiar with the family.
But Michael was never interviewed.
Two weeks later on Jan. 4, 2023, the home turned into a horrific crime scene after Michael Haight shot and killed his five children — 4-year-old Gavin, 7-year-old twins Sienna and Ammon, 12-year-old Brilee, and 17-year-old Macie — as well as 40-year-old Tausha and her mother, 78-year-old Gail Earl. Haight then turned the gun on himself.
Neighbors discovered the family deceased in their home after police were unable to make contact with them. The shooting sent shockwaves through the small, southern Utah community. Nearly 850 people attended the funeral for Gail, Tausha and her five children.
The Deseret News obtained nearly 50 pages of records from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services after a public records request that was originally denied. The records, some of which are heavily redacted, detail several years of investigations and interactions with the Haight family.
The records show the division opened a case on Dec. 8, 2022, to investigate threats and allegations of child abuse by Michael Haight. The case was due on Jan. 7, meaning the division had to complete its investigation by then. The case would later be extended to March 8, though the division could not confirm when the extension was granted.
Tausha, in a Dec. 13 interview with a division caseworker, asked that they not interview Michael until after she had filed for divorce.
“Michael Haight was not interviewed due to the mother asking the worker to wait to speak with the father until after the mother had spoken with the father about a divorce,” reads a note from the division report.
Tausha filed for divorce on Dec. 21, according to court records. Two weeks passed, and Michael was not interviewed by the division. On Jan. 4, three days before the case was originally due, he murdered his entire family.
In a statement provided to the Deseret News on Friday, DCFS spokesperson Miranda Fisher said its caseworkers were “not waiting for Tausha’s approval to perform interviews.”
“Regardless of whether or not a divorce petition has been filed, the caseworker will assess the situation and determine how to safely and appropriately interview a person. Prior to performing interviews, DCFS considers all available information to assess the safety and associated risks. This may include, but is not limited to, information from subject-matter experts such as domestic violence victim advocates or law enforcement agencies, to determine the best approach given the circumstances to the individual case,” Fisher said in a statement.
Fisher says the division’s caseworkers use the information available to them to “gauge the next steps based on outlined policy and procedures.”
“Unfortunately, when tragedies like this occur, a person with hidden and malicious intent may still find ways to carry out a heinous and tragic attack. DCFS has confidence in our caseworkers that were assigned to this case, and support the actions taken during our investigation. Incidents, such as this one, are devastating, not only to the family and community, but to our caseworkers, as well,” Fisher said Friday.
The division works with children, parents, caregivers and other relevant contacts when investigating allegations of threats and abuse, she said. The investigations can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days, Fisher said, and will sometimes require coordination with law enforcement, domestic violence specialists or victim advocates.
“The inclusion of outside agencies and resources is exercised on a case-by-case basis as warranted by the assessment of the circumstances,” Fisher said.
In this case, the division did contact a detective with the Cedar City Police Department, who walked a caseworker through the family’s run-in with Enoch police in 2020, previously reported by the Deseret News. The caseworker told the detective that field interviews would be conducted, according to the report, and a caseworker would “set up a CJC if disclosure made,” presumably meaning a meeting at the Children’s Justice Center.
Michael Haight threatened to ‘make her life hell’
The December investigation was prompted by two separate allegations of child abuse which, according to the division, occurred about four years earlier. Both involved the couple’s oldest daughter, Macie, who was 17 years old at the time of her death.
The first incident happened after Tausha slipped and fell down several steps outside. Michael thought Macie had pushed her, and despite both his wife and daughter saying otherwise, Michael became upset. As he put his hand up “to block the child from advancing,” records say, he hit Macie’s face, causing her to bite through her lip.
The second incident happened after Macie intervened in an argument between Michael and one of his sons. Michael grabbed Macie’s head and threw her into the “hard part”of the back of a couch, according to DCFS records.
It’s unclear in the records how this information was brought to the division’s attention, but on Dec. 8 it opened a case and began conducting interviews. “There is concerns (sic) dad could retaliate against the family due to the report,” the division report reads.
Macie was interviewed on Dec. 13, detailing the allegations of abuse and telling the caseworker she was afraid of her dad.
“Dad jumps to react to anything he doesn’t like,” Macie said, according to records. “... He yells a lot and wants to make sure they know he is right. She states he will tower over them and get close, makes her fell (sic) intimidated.”
During her interview, Tausha said she planned to tell Michael about the divorce filing by Jan. 1, 2023.
“She is not sure how he will react and is working with Canyon Creek Services advocates in case his behavior escalates and they are working on getting a protective order if that is needed,” records read. “She states Michael treats her the same way he treats the children.”
In the past, when Michael thought she was contemplating divorce, “he threatened to commit suicide or ‘make her life hell’ if she left him,” Tausha told the caseworker. Plus, she was worried if he found out about the divorce too soon, that could “hurt the amount of child support she can get.”
Ultimately, the interview with Michael Haight never happened, according to the division.
The caseworker also interviewed a “referent” who said “Tausha is worried how divorce will affect Michael and their relationship with the children” and that Michael is a “negative presence in the home ... and puts children on edge,” according to the caseworker’s notes in the report.
Then, on Dec. 17, Tausha called the caseworker to talk about the interaction between Michael and Ammon, where she said Michael threw the 7-year-old on the floor. It was the tone Michael used, and “how he looks when he is angry,” that concerned Tausha.
Tausha was interviewed at the couple’s home in Enoch and was advised “that she keep working with Canyon Creek Services or if there is a threat to safety, she needs to call law enforcement,” the records state.
Fifth District Court records in Cedar City show Tausha Haight filed for divorce on Dec. 21, 2022. On the same day, the court issued a domestic relations injunction saying both parties must not harass or intimidate each other, by any means, including electronically. It also warned against domestic violence or abuse against the other person or a child.
On Dec. 30, Michael Haight searched on Google: “Can you hear a gunshot in a house?” and “Can neighbors hear gunshots?” Five days later, the entire family was found dead.
“Unfortunately this tragic incident occurred prior to further intervention,” the division’s report summary reads.
Allegations of abuse span years
The division records obtained by the Deseret News paint a manipulative, controlling and violent picture of Michael Haight.
The first investigation into allegations of child abuse began in 2020 when police and DCFS were called to the Haight home after Macie was allegedly assaulted. In one instance, Macie told a caseworker that her dad said “he ought to beat her head in. She spoke about his behavior scaring her,” according to DCFS records.
“She spoke about hearing him arguing with her mother and she heard a thud on the floor. She went upstairs and saw he had thrown his phone. Her mother later told her he became angry and threw his phone at her. I asked if she felt safe with her dad and she told me she didn’t feel safe when he was angry as she worried about what he might do,” reads a caseworker’s notes obtained by the Deseret News.
“He gets angry and kind of goes crazy,” said a then 14-year-old Macie.
Michael was extremely critical of how Tausha spent money, according to the records. Tausha had planned to donate plasma to earn a little extra money to go on vacation, “and he complained about what she would do with the money.” Michael wouldn’t let Tausha get her nails done as a Christmas present and something as simple as buying their kids new clothes was scrutinized.
The couple sought help, reaching out to two local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a 2020 interview with a caseworker, Tausha characterized one as “helpful and supportive of her,” but felt the other “wasn’t supportive and she believed it was due to Michael presenting himself differently than who he is in the home,” according to the DCFS report, which notes that Michael was a local stake executive secretary in the church.
Michael and Tausha also tried marriage counseling.
“Michael doesn’t take accountability for his behavior and therapists aren’t confronting him about his problem,” Tausha told the division in 2020. “She described him as being a smooth talker and he is a different person in the home than what he presents to the public.”
Police in 2020 told Tausha if she decided to leave her husband, “she would be at a higher risk for abuse or harm,” according to records. They encouraged her to make a safety plan.
Then, in early January 2021, the division fielded another report of Michael behaving erratically while driving the family on a highway.
He and Tausha were arguing, when he suddenly slammed on the brakes and swerved to the side of the highway. “Everyone was shocked,” the report reads.
“You hurt the children,” Tausha said, according to the report. “You jerked all of us,” Macie added. According to the division, the entire family had red marks from their seatbelts. However the incident was “unaccepted due to no disclosure of harm or threatened harm.”