Gilchrist County

Gilchrist County, Florida

How does one explain this?

Most people in this rural, north Florida community seemed to know about the Spirit family’s troubled and tragic past.

The patriarch, Don Spirit, who police say killed his daughter and his six grandchildren before committing suicide, served time a decade ago after he accidentally shot his son to death during a hunting trip. His daughter 28-year-old Sarah Lorraine Spirit was on probation at the time she was killed. Two men who fathered her slain children are locked up.

Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz couldn’t say Friday what may have led up to the shootings. Don Spirit, 51, called 911 on Thursday afternoon from his home to say that he might hurt himself or others. By the time a deputy arrived at his mobile home along a dirt road, Spirit had committed suicide.

Twenty-nine-year Bell resident Barbara Whiddon cried when asked about the killings at a convenience store. She said she knew some of the slain children.

“If he was going to do something he should have done it to himself. Them babies is God’s angels,” he said.

That’s probably the most difficult part of my job – trying to explain the unexplainable, trying to make sense out of things that are too horrific to contemplate.