The Florida Department of Children and Families was investigating 51-year-old Don Spirit two weeks before he killed his daughter and six grandchildren.
DCF placed Spirit under investigation after reports of drug use in his home, but the children were not removed from his care. He fatally shot the his daughter Sarah Spirit, 28, and her six children, ages 3 months to 10 years, before turning the gun on himself Thursday.
Someone called the DCF abuse hotline on Sept. 1 to report adults were using drugs in front of children. Sarah Spirit was arrested and tested positive for drug use -- a violation of her probation. When she was released she took her children to live with her father in the small town of Bell.
Both Spirit and his daughter were the focus of past abuse and neglect investigations. DCF documented an incident in which Don Spirit allegedly hit one of his grandchildren with a belt, leaving bruises.
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“There was a lot going on in that family,” reported WJXT crime and safety analyst Gil Smith. “It would have been better if they would have caught that sooner and realized those children probably should have been removed from the home, because she had problems and also the father did, too.”
Spirit called 911 the day of the murders to report that he might hurt himself or others. No motive in the crime has been released.
In 2001, Spirit served time in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm after he accidently shot his 8-year-old son while hunting in Osceola County.
A news conference scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday was cancelled. Osceola County authorities plan to release a written statement instead.
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“We want answers and we want them now,” Smith said. “But when you’re doing a law enforcement investigation, it’s slow. You have to take your time just to make sure that you’re getting everything right.”
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