A convicted felon allegedly killed his daughter and six grandchildren before turning the gun on himself in a murder suicide in northern Florida – 13 years after he accidentally shot his eight-year-old son dead in a hunting accident.
Don Spirit, 51, is said to have gunned down daughter Sarah, 28, and her six sons and daughters, before taking his own life at his home in Bell, a town of only 350 people 30 miles west of Gainesville.
The Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the victims were Kaleb Kuhlmann, 11, Kylie Kuhlmann, nine, Johnathon Kuhlmann, eight, Brandon Stewart, four and Destiny Stewart, five, and three-month-old Alana Stewart.
Deputies confirmed Spirit had called 911 warning he may harm himself or others shortly before his rampage.
By the time an officer reached the property, Spirit had already committed suicide.
The suspect, Spirit, shot and killed his eight-year-old son Kyle during a hunting accident in 2001.
According to the Orlando-Sentinel, he spent three years in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon just as his trial was set to begin, in exchange for the minimum sentence.
Spirit, having been convicted in 1998 for felony possession of marijuana, did not have rights to own a firearm. He was released in 2006.
In 1990, he was arrested on a felony fugitive warrant. Others offences included drug charges and depriving a child of food and shelter, the New York Daily News reported.
His daughter Sarah had been on probation for a theft in 2013, jail records show.
Following yesterday’s shooting, Gilchrist’s county sheriff Robert Schultz said the suspect called 911, suggesting he was going to ‘harm others as well as himself’.
Units were then sent to the family address where the suspect was found dead, along with seven victims. Schultz added that some people were still alive after the shooting, but would not elaborate on the number or their relationship to the family.
He added that the department was not looking for anyone else in connection with the shooting but insisted the investigation was ongoing.
‘We’re all family here, Schultz said. ‘There are certain things in life you can explain; there are certain things you can’t. This is one of those things that I can’t explain.’
Schultz added that Bell and the surrounding community is close-knit and people would pull together.
‘We’ll get through this,’ he said. ‘I will continue to ask everybody to pray for the families.’
Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Samantha Andrews confirmed the agency is investigating the shootings and that it appeared to be a murder-suicide.
‘At this point, FDLE is investigating at the request of the Gilchrist County sheriff,’ Andrews said. ‘It appears to be a murder-suicide. There is no danger to the community. It was at a private residence there at Bell.’
On Facebook, the sheriff’s office wrote: ‘At 4 pm today [Thursday], Gilchrist County deputies responded to an incident at a residence in Bell. No citizens are in danger. At this time we are asking for prayers as we continue to investigate this incident.’
A teacher at Bell Elementary School, which four of the children attended, described seeing the ‘happy-go-lucky’ children at 3pm on the school bus, hours before they died, the New York Daily News reported.
Gilchrist County Schools Superintendent Robert Rankin told the paper: ‘It’s a tough, tough morning at Bell Elementary School.’