More questions are left unanswered as details of the shocking Florida murder-suicide, which left eight people dead, are released. It appears the grandfather had a sordid past with a lengthy criminal history, including responsibility in the death of his 8-year-old son during a hunting “accident.”
According to the LA Times, Donald Spirit, 51, allegedly shot and killed his 28-year-old daughter, Sarah Lorraine, and six children, who ranged in age from 3 months to 11 years, at his home, in Bell, Florida, before committing suicide just after officers arrived. The NY Daily News reports that the six children gunned down by their grandfather were 3-month-old Alana Stewart, 4-year-old Brandon Stewart, 5-year-old Destiny Stewart, 8-year-old Johnathon Kuhlmann, 9-year-old Kylie Kuhlmann and 11-year-old Kaleb Kuhlmann, according to the sheriff’s office.
The LA Times notes that Spirit called 911 himself just before the shootings and “made reference to harming people and himself.” Police were dispatched to the home, but when they arrived it was a gruesome scene. The daughter and six grandchildren were found shot to death inside the home and Spirit was found outside with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
This was not Donald’s first run-in with the law. In fact, he had a length criminal history including the shooting death of his eight-year-old son in a hunting accident with a gun he did not legally own. He was thrown in jail for three years after pleading guilty to being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm after the shooting. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Spirit was walking through the woods with his sons on Nov. 14, 2001, when he stopped to point out rust on the muzzle of his rifle. The rifle fired, shooting his son, Kyle, in the head, the newspaper reported. Spirit frantically dialed 911, driving for miles with his son in the bed of his truck, searching for help, the newspaper reported.
His rap sheet also included an arrest in 1990 on a felony fugitive warrant, and other arrests including misdemeanor battery, drug charges and depriving a child of food and shelter. Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz said there are a lot of questions left unanswered in this case.
“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions. There’s going to be questions that we’re never going to get answered.”
The community has been hit hard by the murder-suicide as it is a small community where “everyone knows everyone.” Four of the children killed attended the same Bell Elementary School. Gilchrist County Schools Superintendent Rob Rankin said that about 25 grief counselors had been dispatched to the school to help students and staff cope with the terrible loss.