City leaders in a small Utah town expressed shock last week after a murder-suicide carried out by a fellow church member left eight people dead in their close-knit community, including five children who were classmates with their kids. Family mass killings are an all-too-common occurrence, reports the Associated Press. They’ve happened nearly every 3.5 weeks for the last two decades on average, according to a database compiled by USA Today, The Associated Press and Northeastern University. Enoch, Utah, is one of more than 30 communities sent reeling by a family mass killing in the last two years, a list that includes communities of wealth and poverty and spares no race or class. A family mass killing — where four or more people were killed, not including the perpetrator — happened each of the last two years in places as large as Houston or as small as Casa Grande, Az.
The circumstances of the killings are myriad: An argument over pandemic stimulus checks lef four family members shot dead and two injured in Indianapolis; financial issues lead to authorities finding six children and their parents inside a house set ablaze in Oklahoma; an escalating custody battle in Ohio preceded a man and members of his family shooting the mother of his child and seven of her family members; a father lost his job, piled his wife and kids in the family station wagon and plunged it into the Detroit River. Enoch police are still investigating what led to the deaths discovered last Wednesday, but authorities said Tausha Haight had recently filed a divorce petition against her husband Michael, a 42-year-old insurance agent who they believe killed her, their five children and Tausha’s mother, who was staying at the family’s home. Family mass killings immediately capture the attention of people in a community, but rarely get the level of national attention received by mass killings at schools, places of worship or restaurants, said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University. That’s because family cases don't carry the same kind of fear with the public. “We are talking about internal factors, and I think that’s why it’s hard for people to see themselves in these situations and why the response is to mourn instead of fear.” Fox said. Family mass killings are in fact the most common type of mass killing, making up about 45 percent of the 415 mass shootings since 2006.