Friday, October 3, 2014

They should pay for your pain?

"He drank a lot, and they should not have let him out of prison the first time," stated Kasey Brogdan.

On Sept 18 2014, police received a chilling call on 911 at approximately 4:00 pm.  The voice on the other end of the call stated that he had killed his family and planned on taking his own life when law enforcement arrived at the scene. The police who did arrive at the residence were able to talk to the caller for a brief time before he shot himself in the head.  A .45 caliber handgun was found near the man who was outside of the residence.  The police found another adult's body outside of the residence as well as the bodies of six children within the home.  All of the victims were shot with the handgun and none had survived.

Don Spirit, 51 had shot his daughter and her six children........ his grandchildren, whose ages ranged from 3 months old to 11 years old.  The police found Spirit outside of his home as well as the body of his daughter, Sarah Spirit, 28.  The bodies of her six children: Kaleb Kuhlmann, 11, Kylie Kuhlmann, 9, Johnathon Kuhlmann, 8, Destiny Stewart, 5, Brandon Stewart, 4 and Alana Stewart, 3 months old were all found within the home.

The small town of Bell FL, with a population of about 350 did not expect anything like the killings but there are many who have stated that they knew that Spirit had problems.  The police stated that they had visited the home on several occasions in the past for various issues.  Teachers for the children stated that they had not noticed anything that would lead them to believe that there was trouble at the home located near the intersection of Northwest 30th St and Northwest 39th Terrace.

It has been reported that numerous people knew about Spirit's troubled past and lengthy criminal history.  In the 1990's he was living in the Tampa FL area and was convicted of  battery, leaving the scene of a serious accident and depriving a child of food or shelter.  The specific details about the case have not been made available yet.  In 1998 he was convicted of felony marijuana possession and lost his right to own firearms.  He never sought to have that right restored but he did manage to get a Florida hunting license in 2007 and 2011.

On November 14 2001, Spirit accidentally shot his Kyle, 8, during a hunting trip to Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area near Kenasville FL.  He was on the trip with Sarah's brother's Kyle and Josh.  On a walk through the woods with both sons, Spirit pointed out some rust that was on the muzzle of his Browning rifle.

For some reason, the high powered rifle fired and Kyle was struck in the head.  He put Kyle in the back of his pick up truck and drove out of the remote location looking for help.  Authorities stated that Kyle had died instantly and that they felt it had been an accidental shooting.  Spirit did plead guilty in 2003 to the charge of a felon possessing a gun and was sentenced to three years in prison.

He received the minimum sentence for the plea bargain and he stated that he knew he was guilty and wished to avoid the pain of a trial.  His wife, Christine Spirit had pleaded with the judge to waive the sentence because she feared that he may hurt himself if left alone.  She added that he blamed himself for his son's death and was punishing himself more than any prison could.  Christine stated that she would constantly worry that each time the phone rang, it could be the prison calling to tell her that he had killed himself.  She also told the judge that Spirit would miss important milestones in his children's lives such as a son turning thirteen and their daughter Sarah giving birth to her first child.

Spirit had moved his family from the Tampa area to Bell after the death of Kyle and he and Christine divorced in 2005.  Property records show that Spirit had lived at the mobile home where the murders occurred since 2006.  He was released from prison in 2006 and moved to the two acre property after that.  His record also shows that in 2002, he smashed his wife's car with a sledgehammer and threatened to kill her.  When police asked Christine for a formal statement of the incident though, she refused.

In 2007 he was arrested on a domestic violence charge that was later dropped and in 2008, he was found guilty of battery.  That charge came from a call Sarah made to the police on August 27 2008 when she reported that he had beat her in front of her three year old child.  She stated that he had become enraged when she told him that she would be unable to pay the property tax bill for their residence.  When the police arrived the next day to arrest him, he stated that the only way he would come out is if they broke down the door and tossed tear gas inside.  He eventually did give up and was arrested at that time.

Sarah was no stranger to criminal records and complaints as well.  The police had been called out for a domestic incident between the father of some of the children in 2013 but no details were available.  Both father's of Sarah's children are currently in prison.  Edward Kuhlmann, who was the father of the three oldest children, is serving 25 years for a dozen burglary and grand theft charges.  James Stewart, the father of the other three children is currently in Levi County jail on a parole violation.  Sarah herself had just been released for a parole violation after she admitted drug use and failing a drug test administered by a probation officer.  After she was released from jail, she and the children were kicked out of the home she was living in and they moved in with her father again.

DCF had made at least 18 investigations of Sarah and her children from 2006 until the time they were killed.  There were two hotline reports that year, one of which stated that the family had no food and was facing eviction.  One of the boys reportedly had his leg in a cast from a fall off a trampoline and one child had a bite mark and yellow bruises.  It was ruled that there were no signs of neglect or abuse.  Later that year one of the children was found wandering the neighborhood with a steak knife.  At one point in 2007, Sarah had the children taken from her but they were returned very quickly.

A 2007 report from DCF states that Sarah uses crack cocaine and leaves the children in drug houses.  The children's paternal grandmother told an investigator that one of the boys was so hungry that he hoarded food and she threatened to go to the media if DCF did not do anything.  In 2008, DCF was told that Kylie had witnessed Spirit beating up her mother.  The report states that Sarah has a history of poor decision making and a chaotic lifestyle but the children did not appear to be in danger.  In 2010, it was reported that Kaleb had a cigarette burn on his neck.

There were several reports to DCF in 2012 concerning Sarah's children.  It had been reported that Kylie had to repeat kindergarten twice because of chronic head lice.  That report was followed by one that stated that Sarah had soaked Kaleb's foot with bleach and wrapped it in tissue and duct tape after he cut it on glass.  He did not receive medical treatment for it until 12 days later when a school nurse convinced a school resource officer to take the boy to the doctor.  The DCF report concluded that the child's needs are being seen to with the help of others.

May of 2013 brought another investigation by DCF and the report stated that Don Spirit had beaten Kylie with a belt and left bruises behind her knees.  The report also states that Sarah's current boyfriend would trash the home if he could not find the couple's synthetic marijuana as well as stating that both mom and dad were drug addicts.  Another report a couple of months later stated that Sarah had failed a better-parenting program and that Destiny's teeth were rotting from lack of dental care.

There were more reports in 2014 regarding the children.  Destiny had arrived at school with a serious burn that would have been better if it had been treated the previous evening.  When interviewed, Destiny reluctantly stated that her mother had paddled her feet for not going to sleep and had bruised them.  The report also stated that the children have a rough time at home and function with great difficulty.  DCF was told in July 2014 that Sarah had left all six children unattended so that she could get high as well as not paying attention to the kids and using the drug K2 on a daily basis.  The report was closed on Aug 28th after the investigator reported that the complaint was a false report made by a family member after an altercation.  It concluded that the children's needs were being met.

The University of Florida Child Protection Team had warned the department of Children and Families that none of Sarah's children should have contact with Don in a 2013 report.  That message was lost by the time Sarah had reported to DCF sometime around Sept 1 2014 when she stated that she would be moving in with her father.  Sarah had reported seeing guns at her father's home and there also was a report that Don was bi-polar.

An incident report in June of 2013 shows that DCF was investigating allegations of abuse, the presence of drugs and guns within the home and filthy living conditions.  The case was closed but after the murders, improvements are being instituted for handling investigations.  Don Spirit left no notes as to the reason for the killings and we probably will never know what it was.  It may seem like the easy out to blame DCF but they would had no reason to predict the deaths as well.  What can be done is to improve the services that are available as well as possibly making some services mandatory for families in crisis or suffering from constant issues.  Sadly, Don Spirit felt for some reason that he needed to leave this world and his daughter and grandchildren had to join him.

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