A Utah newspaper apologized after publishing a glowing obituary of a man accused of killing seven members of his family in a murder-suicide. The piece was also deleted.
On 4 January, Michael Haight of Utah, 42, shot his estranged wife, Tausha Haight, 40; their five children, aged four to 17; and Haight’s mother-in-law, Gail Earl, 78. Haight then shot himself, police said.
But an obituary published in the Spectrum on 11 January made no mention of the killings and described Haight as a loving father and businessman, NBC News reported.
The obituary said Haight “made it a point to spend quality time with each and every one of his children”, coached his children’s sports teams, attended concerts and went sledding, Desert News said.
Amid online anger, Shannon Watts, founder of the anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action, posted screenshots of the obituary on Twitter.
“Grotesque,” one user commented.
“This guy is a murderer. End of point,” another wrote.
Watts called out a GoFundMe page that featured an image of the Haight family photoshopped to include Jesus in place of Michael Haight.
The Spectrum apologized for running the positive obituary, adding that such columns were written and submitted by funeral homes.
“Obituaries may be written and submitted by funeral homes, as was the case here,” said Gannet, owner of the Spectrum, in a statement. “The Spectrum removed the obituary due to the circumstances and sincerely regrets any distress this may have caused.”
In the weeks since the shooting, more has been discovered about Haight’s alleged history of abuse and aggression. New records released on Tuesday showed Haight was investigated for child abuse two years before the shooting, but not charged.
In records obtained by the Associated Press, Haight’s eldest daughter, Macie, described assaults including one incident in which she said Haight choked her.
Macie told investigators in 2020 she was “very afraid that he was going to keep her from breathing and kill her”.
Haight denied the accusations, calling Macie “mouthy” though admitting he got angry on several occasions. He also admitted to taking his wife’s cellphone and iPad to read her text messages.
The investigation began after a non-family member called police.
An investigator told Haight his behavior was “close to assaultive”, the AP said, but local police and the Iron county attorney decided not to bring charges.