Michael Haight killed his wife and five children in a horrific murder-suicide last week, leaving his small town of Enoch, Utah, mourning in shock and disbelief. But the tragedy sparked even more controversy when an obituary for Haight popped up online, showering him in praise but sidelining his actions. The obituary, published in the Spectrum newspaper of Cedar City, was removed after it sparked outrage from many, including gun control activist Shannon Watts. A GoFundMe page also drew criticism, as it photoshopped the accused murderer’s image to include that of Jesus instead.
The obituary described how Haight met his wife in their student ward at Southern Utah University and married her in 2003. It recounted his “academic successes and leadership roles” and praised his involvement with the church. “Michael made it a point to spend quality time with each and every one of his children, coaching their sports teams, attending their concerts and going on family sledding trips,” it reads. “Michael lived a life of service, always helping others.”
But the obituary did not mention his alleged crime, only that he died “at home” in his bed on January 4, and that he is survived by his mother Brenda Haight, two brothers and one sister, and his maternal grandparents. It also said his funeral will take place privately, separate from a procession held Friday for the other seven members of his family attended by friends, neighbors, family, and classmates.
It’s unclear who penned the obituary, but the glowing tribute didn’t sit well with many. It sparked outrage from gun-control advocates, who shared screenshots of it on Twitter. The Spectrum eventually apologized, saying it did not mean to offend anyone and that such obituaries are often written and submitted by funeral homes. An official with Southern Utah Mortuary, which handled the services for Haight, declined to comment on whether it had anything to do with the obituary or other related matters.
Watts, who leads the anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action, flagged the obit for her nearly 587,000 followers and called for it to be pulled from the paper’s website. She also called out a GoFundMe page that had replaced the picture of Haight with an image of Jesus, which has since been photoshopped back into place.
Watts also pointed out that the church of the Latter-day Saints could have done more to help victims of domestic abuse, which is a widespread issue among their membership. But that suggestion seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Enoch Mayor Geoffrey Chesnut said police were still investigating the motive for the murder-sucide, but that they were aware that court records showed Tausha filed for divorce on Dec. 21, Insider reported.
Tausha’s sister-in-law, Jennie Earl, told the Associated Press that Michael had removed all guns from the home before the shootings.
She said the lack of access to firearms left Tausha Haight, her mother and her children more “vulnerable.”
Police said they had investigated Michael before, suggesting previous problems inside the household.