Don Spirit has been identified as the shooter who killed his daughter, six grandchildren and himself in a horrific murder-suicide on September 18 in Bell, Florida.
Here’s what we know about Spirit and his role in this unspeakable tragedy.
1. The Victims Included a 10-Week-Old Baby
Details of the September 18 massacre in Bell, Florida, outside of Gainesville, are disturbing and gruesome. Bodies were found scattered “all over the property.”
Before killing himself, Spirit murdered his daughter, Sarah Lorraine Spirit, 28, and her six children:
Kaleb Kuhlmann, 11, Kylie Kuhlmann, 9, Johnathon Kuhlmann, 8, Destiny Stewart, 5, Brandon Stewart, 4, and 10-week-old baby Alanna Stewart.
2. He Shot His 8-Year-Old Son Dead in 2001
In what was deemed a hunting accident, Spirit shot dead his 8-year-old son, Kyle, in 2001.
He was eventually jailed for the incident because, as a convicted felon, it was illegal for him to possess a firearm. He reached a plea agreement in 2003 and served three years. Florida Department of Corrections records show he was released on February 19, 2006:
The Orlando Sentinel describes the accident:
On a walk through the woods with sons Kyle and Josh … Spirit pointed out rust on the muzzle of his high-powered Browning rifle. The rifle fired, hitting Kyle in the head … Afterward, Spirit drove miles through the dense woods with Kyle in the back of the truck, looking for help…
3. He’s a Convicted Felon With a Long Rapsheet
The 51-year-old Spirit has been in and out of jail for more than 20 years, with convictions for crimes including battery, depriving a child of food and shelter, leaving the scene of an accident, and felony marijuana possession.
4. He Called 911 Before the Killing Spree
Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz told reporters that Spirit called the sheriff’s office around 4 p.m. on the day of the shooting, expressing intent to harm himself or others:
When he called 911, he said enough to alarm us to get someone there, and we needed to get there in a hurry.
Spirit took his own life after a sheriff’s deputy arrived at the home.
Bay News 9 reports Schultz could not reveal a motive during a press conference:
There’s still a lot of unanswered questions. There’s going to be questions that we’re never going to get answered. Keep this community in your prayers…(Friday’s) going to be a hard day in Gilchrest County.
Schultz added that there were additional people at the home who were spared by Spirit.
Schultz did not reveal the weapon or weapons used in the shooting.
5. Spirit Had Been Treated in a Mental Health Facility
Update: The WFTV photo of Bell, Florida shooting scene is actually from station WCJB-TV – pic.twitter.com/L4zfw4iqa5
— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) September 18, 2014
The Orlando Sentinel reports that after his son’s death in 2001 but before he went to jail, Spirit told the paper in an interview that “he was having trouble coping” and “was taken to a mental-heath facility for treatment and was on medication”:
The medication, I’ve tried it. It ain’t working. The one medicine I have is my family.