Florida investigated man who killed 6 grandkids

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Florida investigated man who killed 6 grandkids
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, and Gilcrist county sheriff Robert Schultz, right, talk to the media Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Bell, Fla. On Thursday, 51-year-old Don Spirit killed six of his grandchildren, including an infant, his adult daughter and himself in a rampage. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
Gov. Rick Scott, right, and Gilcrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz, left, talk to reporters in Bell, Fla. on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014 regarding Thursday's shooting. Authorities said Don Sprit, who spent time in prison for the death of his young son, killed six of his grandchildren, his adult daughter and himself. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
A Gilchrist County Sheriff's car blocks NW 29th Terrace in Bell, Fla., on Friday, September 19, 2014. At the site on Thursday, grandfather Don Spirit killed his six grandchildren, his daughter, and then himself in a rural home. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Gilchrist County School Superintendent Robert Rankin, right, waits to talk with parents and teachers after school in Bell, Fla. on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. On Thursday, six children and their mother were killed by their grandfather. Rankin says four of the children attended Bell Elementary School, which has 540 students. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
Gilchrist County School Superintendent Robert Rankin, right, talks with a student and adults,left, at the end of the day at Bell Elementary School Friday, Sept., 19, 2014 in Bell,Fla. The is trying to overcome the news of six children and their mother who were slain by their grandfather, who also killed himself Thursday. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
An officer from the sheriff's department watches school buses leave Bell Elementary School in Bell, Fla. on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. On Thursday, six children and their mother were killed by their grandfather. School officials said four of the children attended the elementary school, which has 540 students. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz, right, speaks at a news conference, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Bell, Fla., about 51-year-old Don Spirit, who killed six of his grandchildren, including an infant, his adult daughter and himself in a rampage on Thursday. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert D. Schultz, second from left, speaks during a news conference in Bell, Fla. on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 about a shooting earlier in the day. Officials said two adults and six children are dead in the incident. (AP Photo/The Gainesville Sun, Matt Stamey)
This undated image provided by the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 shows Don Spirit. On Thursday, officials said Spirit is suspected of killing six of his grandchildren, his daughter and himself near Bell, Fla. (AP Photo/Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office)
Officials work on NW 29th Terrace near the scene of a shooting on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 in Bell, Fla. Officials said two adults and six children are dead in the incident. (AP Photo/The Gainesville Sun, Matt Stamey)
Officials walk along NW 29th Terrace near the scene of a shooting on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 in Bell, Fla. Officials said two adults and six children are dead in the incident. (AP Photo/The Gainesville Sun, Matt Stamey)
A Gilchrist County sheriff's deputy lowers the yellow tape to let vehicles through at the scene of a shooting on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 in Bell, Fla. Officials said two adults and six children are dead in the incident. (AP Photo/The Gainesville Sun, Matt Stamey)
Gilchrist county sheriff Bobby Schultz talks with the media following the shooting deaths of 8 members of a familhy in Bell, FL, Thursday, Sept., 18, 2014. Schultz said a man killed six of his grandchildren, his adult daughter and himself. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

A Gilchrist county sheriffs car sits at the end of a trailer home where 7 members of a family were slain by their grandfather in Bell, FL, Thursday, Sept., 18, 2014. The grandfather, Don Spirit also killed himself. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz speaks with reporters in Bell, Fla. on Thursday, Sept., 18, 2014 about the shooting deaths of two adults and six children. Officials said Don Spirit is suspected of killing his six grandchildren, his daughter and himself near Bell. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
Donald Spirit, 51, gunned down his daughter and her six children before turning the gun on himself, police said. (Gilchrist County Sheriff)
A Gilchrist County sheriff's deputy stands guard on a road near the scene of a shooting on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 in Bell, Fla. Officials said two adults and six children are dead in the incident. (AP Photo/The Gainesville Sun, Matt Stamey)
A picture from the scene of Bell shooting, which took place at Donald Spirit's trailer home. (WCJB)
Sarah Spirit, 28, was reportedly shot dead by her father, along with her six children. (Facebook)
Gilchrist County Schools Superintendent Robert Rankin holds his emotions as he talks to the media Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Bell, Fla., during a news conference concerning 51-year-old Don Spirit, who killed six of his grandchildren, including an infant, his adult daughter and himself in a rampage on Thursday. Rankin said four of the children attended Bell Elementary School. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
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By KELLI KENNEDY AND JASON DEARAN

MIAMI (AP) -- Two weeks before a Florida man fatally shot his daughter and six grandchildren, someone called the state child abuse hotline, worried that adults were doing drugs in front of the kids, according to documents released Monday.

Authorities said 51-year-old Donald Spirit called 911 from his mobile home Thursday warning he might hurt himself or others. By the time a deputy arrived, Spirit had committed suicide. And he had killed 28-year-old Sarah Spirit and her six children, including an infant girl born in June.

The Department of Children and Families said it opened an investigation into Sarah Spirit on Sept. 1 after getting a tip that she or other adults in the home were smoking pot and synthetic marijuana in front of the children. Spirit told investigators she had tested positive for drugs when she was screened by her probation officers and was arrested on Aug. 26 for violating that probation.

When she got out of jail, Spirit and the children were kicked out of their home and went to live with her father. Besides the baby, the children were 11, 9, 8, 5 and 4. Four of the children were found dead about two hours after boarding the bus home from school.

Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz said their bodies were found all over the property of Don Spirit's mobile home in Bell, a rural, north Florida community of about 500 residents.

Both father and daughter had a troubled history and were the focus of several child abuse allegations. Most involved complaints that Sarah Spirit was neglecting the children and abusing drugs, according to child welfare officials. The agency investigated a domestic incident between Sarah and the father of one of the children in 2013, but no details were given. The two men who fathered her slain children are behind bars.

One of the more troubling calls came on Aug. 27, 2008, when Sarah Spirit alerted police that her father beat her in front of her 3-year-old. She was 36 weeks pregnant at the time.

An officer found Sarah with red marks on both sides of her face. She said he'd become enraged after she told him she couldn't pay his taxes on the property where they both lived, according to Gilchrist County court records.

"He then grabbed her by the arms and shoved her up against the refrigerator and then took both his hands and placed them close to the sides of her face and boxed her cheeks very hard leaving red marks on them just below the eyes," the officer wrote in his report.

When Gilchrist County sheriff's deputies arrived to arrest Don Spirit the next day, he refused to come out of the house, saying "that the only way we were going to get him to come out is to break down the front door and throw in in the tear gas," court records show.

Spirit eventually gave up, and was taken into custody.

Weeks later, Sarah Spirit wrote a letter to the court, asking for leniency and taking blame for what happened.

"I forgive him for what he did, and I am willing to stand by his side and help him (through) his problems," she wrote.

Child welfare officials said they had referred the troubled young mother to voluntary services three times since 2007, but noted in a report that Sarah Spirit didn't "fully engage" in the services offered in 2013.

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers made sweeping changes to the way DCF relies on such parental services after repeated complaints that children were being taken from foster care and returned to dangerous home environments based on little more than verbal promises from parents to do better and attend parenting, anger management or substance abuse classes. After several child deaths, a new bill says safety plans can no longer rely on verbal promises from parents.

Gilchrist County court records are littered with police reports documenting violence between Don Spirit and his ex-wife and daughter with details of him terrorizing them.

Most recently, there was a report that Don Spirit hit one of his grandchildren with a belt in 2013.

In 2002, police reported that Don Spirit had smashed his wife Christine's car with a sledgehammer.

Christine Spirit said she was worried about her husband, who she said had become suicidal after he accidentally killed their 8-year-old son in a hunting accident in 2001. He was convicted of a gun charge in the killing in 2003 and spent about three years in prison.

After questioning by police, Christine told officers she was afraid of her husband, who had threatened to kill her.

When police asked her to make a formal statement about the violence her husband had directed at her, the officers said she refused.

Three years later, the couple divorced.

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