Could state senator’s bill prevent next domestic-violence tragedy?
Jan 18, 2023, 6:00 PM
(Ben B. Braun/The Deseret News via AP)
SALT LAKE CITY — Could a set of questions asked by police responding to a domestic violence call prevent the next tragedy from happening? A Utah state senator thinks it’s a protocol all police department statewide should be implementing now and has a bill proposing to make it a law.
Investigators say Michael Haight, 42, murdered his estranged wife, Tausha, their five children, and Tausha’s mother, Gail Earl, before killing himself in their home in Enoch, Utah on Jan. 4.
Back in August 2020, police responded to the Haight home on a report that Michael Haight had assaulted the couples’s eldest daughter, Macie.
On Tuesday, the Deseret News obtained copies of several police reports after a public records inquiry into the family’s past interactions with law enforcement.
In the report, Macie details three instances of alleged physical abuse from her father.
“Her father became angry at her and grabbed her by the shoulders. He shook her and her head banged into the wooden piece along the back of the couch,” the report reads. “She stated that she was terrified that he was going to hurt her. (And) she stated that she did not suffer any injury from this event. She was mostly scared.”
Also, the report said the father in 2018 grabbed his daughter around the neck and tried to choke her.
State senator discusses ways to prevent tragedy with his bill
State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, is proposing a lethality assessment that would be mandatory for police departments to use to help combat domestic violence. He joins KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss his bill.
“In my view, if somebody is trying to choke you, they want you to die. They want to take from you the one thing you need in that moment,” Debbie said. “You can go three days without water. We can go a month without food. We can go only seconds without air.”
“Yeah, choking the oldest daughter, throwing her head into the back of a sofa, shaking her, verbally abusing her. And this individual was not arrested for that?” Dave asked.
“The officer warned that his behavior was very close to assaultive,” Debbie said. “I’m not a cop. I just think that is beyond assault. It’s not very close to, it’s beyond the line.”
Warning signs of danger
The lethality assessment asks many questions to determine the risk of someone being seriously hurt or killed by their spouse or partner.
Weiler said choking someone in anger is a sign that a more dangerous act may likely happen.
“It’s a higher risk of something more violent happening as the perpetrator chooses to choke people when he’s angry,” he said.
“You want to make these mandatory, and sadly Senator Weiler, this is a case study of why all [police] departments need to be asking these 11 questions, one of which is ‘Has your partner ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?’ . . . Here’s one: “Do you think he or she might try to kill you?” Debbie said.
“Yeah, this is a really ugly glimpse into this family. And of course, we all know how it ended, which was so tragic and so heart-wrenching, but it’s unlikely that the father only had this one incident three years ago with one of his children,” Weiler said.
Why wasn’t the father taken to jail when the daughter reported to police that he had tried to choke her, Debbie asked.
“Of course, after the tragedy now, it’s easy for us to sit there and say, ‘Well gee, why didn’t they do that?’ My guess is this is a small town, everybody knew each other, and this father probably got the benefit of that doubt this time. I’m not saying it’s right. It’s my guess as to what probably happened here,” Weiler said.
Related reading: Enoch father faced abuse accusations years before murder-suicide
If you or someone you know is experiencing trouble linked to domestic violence, the following resources are available.
Utah Domestic Violence LINKLine
If LINKLine advocates experience an increased call volume, they will forward calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
StrongHearts Native Helpline
Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.