Florida granddad who killed family had also fatally shot son years before

September 19, 2014

The Florida man who police say gunned down his daughter and six grandchildren Thursday had been to prison for fatally shooting his young son during a hunting trip 13 years ago, according to court records.

Don Charles Spirit, 51, phoned the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Department around 4 p.m. Thursday and made a reference to harming himself and others.

“When he called 911, he said enough to alarm us to get someone there, and we needed to get there in a hurry,” Sheriff Robert Schultz said.

But the father and grandfather shot himself as arriving officers approached. Deputies then discovered the bodies of Spirit’s adult daughter and six children at the small, rural home near Bell, about 38 miles northwest of Gainesville in north central Florida.

Sheriff Schultz identified the victims as Sarah Lorraine Spirit, 28; Kaleb Kuhlmann, 11; Kylie Kuhlmann, 9; Johnathon Kuhlmann, 8; Destiny Stewart, 5; Brandon Stewart, 4; and Alanna Stewart, who was born in June.

“Them were nice little kids — they’d laugh and cut up going down the road going to school and coming back,” neighbor Betty Dyer told Yahoo News. “People’s minds are just sick I guess.”

Sheriff Schultz said investigators had no immediate motive for the massacre. He said his officers had answered calls at the home before, “but nothing to this extent.”

Spirit was released from a Florida prison in February 2006 after serving three years related to the shooting death of his son, Kyle Spirit.

He had pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon two years after Kyle, 8, was killed during a hunting outing.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Spirit said he was walking through the woods with Kyle and another son, 11-year-old Josh, when he pointed out rust on the muzzle of his rifle and it accidently fired, striking Kyle in the head in November 2001.

Spirit had been convicted of felony marijuana possession in 1998, losing his right to own a firearm, but had never applied to restore the right.

Spirit, who moved his family from Tampa to Bell after the child’s death, told a reporter that he took the plea deal because he couldn’t bear emotional toll of a trial.

“There’s nothing I can do,” Spirit, carrying a crumpled tissue, told the Orlando Sentinel.

The drug conviction was not Spirit’s first encounter with the law. According to public records, in the early 1990s he was found guilty of leaving the scene of a serious accident, depriving a child of food or shelter and battery. Specific details on those charges weren’t immediately available.

Once he was released from prison in 2006, public records show Spirit was awarded a Florida hunting license in 2007 and 2011.

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