Donald Spirit was a violent man. His daughter, Sarah, was a repeated drug user. Two weeks before Spirit, age 51, killed his daughter and six children, the family was investigated by the authorities. This mass murder might have been prevented.
On September 1st a call was received over the hotline of the Florida Department of Children and Families. The caller claimed that Sarah and other adults were smoking marijuana and synthetic pot in front of her minor children. Sarah was living with her father, Donald. Sarah told investigators that she had been released from jail after she was incarcerated for violating her parole when she tested positive for an illegal substance. Donald Spirit had served time in prison for fatally shooting his son in a hunting accident.
The children ranged in age from 11 years to 2 months. Evidence shows that each of the victims was systematically shot, and then Donald Spirit turned the gun on himself, inflicting a fatal wound.
So, here’s the history; Sarah Spirit’s first encounter with DCF was in 2007 when she was offered training related to parenting skills. There is no record of her accepting the invitation. She was offered assistance twice more; in 2012 and 2013. “It does not appear that services were ever fully engaged in the latter year,” the latest incident report said.
The question must be asked; why were six minor children living in a situation which presented unhealthy and possibly dangerous implications?
The Florida DCF has a history of inaction which has resulted in the deaths of children. There are at least three cases: Four years ago Patrick Dell forced himself into his estranged wife’s home. He fatally shot her and four of her children, ages 10-14. Another of her children was also wounded, but survived. Dell then turned the weapon on himself, dying at the scene.
After an estimated 10 years of domestic violence, Mesac Damas allegedly murdered his entire family in 2009. He killed his estranged wife and her five children, ages 9-1. All of their throats were slit. He then fled to Haiti, but has been recovered and is standing trial for six counts of murder.
On March 16th, the Miami Herald published the results of a decade’s long study. Their report was titled ‘Innocents Lost.’ It tells the story of 477 children who were killed by their parents, or their parent’s ‘significant others.’ The children died from neglect, drugs, or abuse. Each one of these cases had been investigated by the Florida DCF.
The recent issues reported by the NFL regarding domestic violence are placing the issue at the forefront of the public’s interest. Although it’s way past the time this frequently occurring situation should have been addressed more seriously, the time has come to make it the issue in our nation.
The numbers of women and children who die each year at the hands of a parent or a significant other is in the tens of thousands.
For some families domestic abuse is a ‘dirty little secret.’ Women frequently ignore the truth when a family member or friend reports a dangerous situation. They lie and tell authorities that ‘nothing of the sort’ occurred.
The situation in Florida is abhorrent. There is a new head of the DCF; hopefully she will re-invent the way cases are handled in the state. There must be no more cases such as this mass murder which might have, and should have, been prevented.