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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Don Spirit Mass Murder-Suicide Case

     In 1990, 33-year-old Don Spirit lived with his 4-year-old daughter Sarah near Bell, Florida, a small town thirty miles west of Gainesville in the north-central part of the state. He had been in and out of jail for possession of marijuana, assault, and child neglect. In 1996, he went to prison for possessing more than 20 grams of marijuana, a third-degree felony.

     While hunting with his 8-year-old son in 2000 in Osecola County, Florida, Spirit accidentally shot and killed the boy with is rifle. He pleaded guilty to possession of a gun by a convicted felon and went to prison for three years. His daughter Sarah, at the time of his incarceration, was fifteen. When she turned seventeen Sarah was pregnant with her first child. A year later she had a second baby.

     In 2008, while pregnant with her third child, Sarah acquired a domestic violence injunction against her father. She claimed he had pushed her violently against the refrigerator and threatened to make her life hell if she called the police. In seeking the protection order she wrote: "I am very scared of  him. I know what he's capable of." The judge sentenced the 45-year-old father and grandfather to six months in jail.

     Five years after the assault, police officers arrested Sarah Spirit for grand theft in connection with a wallet containing $400 she had stolen from an acquaintance. Her boyfriend James Stewart, the father of her fourth child, was at that time in jail himself on a charge of battery.

     In the mid-2000s, social workers with the Florida Department of Children and Families had visited the Spirit house to investigate complaints of child neglect. James Stewart and Sarah were accused of smoking synthetic marijuana in front of the children. Neighbors reported that the kids were always dirty and looked underfed. Sarah couldn't hold down a job and lived off government assistance. She and Stewart, during this period, were either in jail or on probation. The father of Sarah's first three children, a man named Kuhlmann, spent a lot of time behind bars as well. The children, however, were not removed from their house of violence, drug addiction, and poverty.

     In June 2014, Sarah Spirit gave birth to her fifth child, the second fathered by James Stewart. That summer she knocked on a friend's door and asked for diapers for the baby and food for her other kids.

     At four in the afternoon of Thursday September 18, 2014, Don Spirit, now 51, called 911 and said: "I just shot my daughter and shot all of my grandkids. I'll be sitting on my steps when you get  here. I'm going to shoot myself. I'm done with every (expletive) thing. All the kids are dead in the house."

     Gilchrist County sheriff's deputies arrived at the house in Bell where they encountered Don Spirit outside of the ramshackle dwelling. After they had exchanged a few words with him, he put a .45-caliber handgun to his head and pulled the trigger.

    Inside the house officers found the bodies of Sarah Spirit and her five children, ages four months to eleven. Four of the children were last seen an hour earlier getting off the Bell Elementary School bus.

     The Spirit mass murder-suicide was the seventh domestic-related multiple homicide this year in the state of Florida. 

1 comment:

  1. You need to check your dates and your facts. You have so many wrong.