A 42-year-old man fatally shot his wife, their five children and his mother-in-law inside their home in rural Utah this week before he shot and killed himself, officials said on Thursday.
Officials said that the evidence suggests that the man, Michael Haight, killed the seven other members of his family and then killed himself inside the family’s home in Enoch City, which is nearly 250 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
Police officers discovered all eight bodies on Wednesday after Mr. Haight’s wife, Tausha Haight, 40, failed to show up for an appointment with someone who then contacted the police, officials said.
Ms. Haight had filed for divorce from Mr. Haight on Dec. 21, and her mother, Gail Earl, 78, who was also killed, had been “providing support through the difficulties that they were encountering,” Geoffrey Chesnut, the mayor of Enoch City, said at a news conference on Thursday.
The five children who were killed were not named but were identified as a 17-year-old girl, a 12-year-old girl, a 7-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old boy.
Mr. Chesnut spoke through tears as he described the shock and devastation in Enoch City, which has about 8,000 residents. He said that the Haights had lived next door to his family and that their youngest children had played with his sons in his yard.
“This is a tremendous blow to many, many families who have spent many, many nights with these individuals who are now gone,” Mr. Chesnut said.
Jackson Ames, the Enoch City police chief, said at the news conference that the police had “been involved in some investigations with the family a couple years prior.” He declined to elaborate but said, “We were familiar with the family, yes.”
He said that the police had not been called to the home recently. The authorities did not say what type of firearm Mr. Haight had used in the killings.
The White House released a statement on Thursday saying that President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, were mourning with the residents of Enoch City. The statement called for further action on guns, including the enactment of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“Too many Americans have lost loved ones or had their lives forever changed due to gun violence, and gun violence remains the leading cause of death for children in America,” the statement said. “Less than one month after we marked 10 years since the Sandy Hook tragedy, another mass shooting has claimed the lives of five more children in Enoch City.”
Neighbors described Enoch City as a tightknit community with many children, where homes rarely go up for sale. The neighborhood where the police found the victims is often filled with children playing and neighbors who wave hello and volunteer to help one another shovel snow.
Rob Dotson, the city manager, also spoke through tears at the news conference, saying his emotions reflected those of the community at large.
“We don’t know why this happened,” he said. “No one will probably know what was going through the minds of these individuals. However, we do know that they were our friends, they were our neighbors and that we loved them.”
In a statement posted to its website on Wednesday, the Iron County School District in Cedar City, Utah, said that the five children were all students there.
A district official said that “quite a few” students in the district were not in school on Thursday as the community grieved, and that the district had dispatched counselors and therapists to help students cope with the deaths.
Richard Jensen, a city councilman, said in an interview on Wednesday that he had spent the night crying on and off, after learning about the shooting. He said he pulled himself together to tell his 11-year-old son what had happened so he didn’t have to learn about it in school.
“This was a respected community member and church leader, and it is sending shock waves,” Mr. Jensen said.
Aaron Diamond, a resident of Enoch City, said that he knew those killed well because they attended the same church as him. “They were just a wonderful, wonderful family,” he said, adding that Mr. Haight had worked for an insurance company.
“We’re all just shocked and heartbroken,” Mr. Diamond said. “The people who live here love their neighbors.”