SHAFAQNA- A grandfather shot and killed his daughter and her six children Thursday in the town of Bell, Fla. before committing suicide after police arrived at the scene, authorities said.
The children ranged in age from three months to 10 years old, Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert D. Schultz III told reporters at an evening press conference.
Schultz identified the suspect as Don C. Spirit, 51, a white man. The sheriff said Spirit had placed a 911 call around 4:30 p.m. in which he “made reference to harming people and himself.”
He wouldn’t release more details about Spirit or when he first made contact with the deputies. He also wouldn’t divulge where exactly the victims were found, though he said, “They were certainly all over on the property.”
Schultz declined to speculate on a motive, citing the ongoing investigation, but he said Spirit had a criminal history, and that police had been called previously to his house. He also declined to say if a weapon was recovered or what sort was used.
“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” he said. “There’s going to be questions that we’re never going to get answered.”
The victims’ identities were released by the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office late Thursday: Alana Stewart, 3 months old; Brandon Stewart, 4; Destiny Stewart, 5; Johnathon Kuhlmann, 8; Kylie Kuhlmann, 9; Kaleb Kuhlmann, 11; and Sarah Lorraine Spirit, 28.
In 2001, Spirit pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after he fatally shot his 8-year-old son in the head in a hunting accident, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Spirit, who also was convicted in 1998 for felony possession of marijuana, was sentenced to three years in prison for the shooting, the Sentinel added. He was released in 2006.
Bell is a town of 350 people about 30 miles west of Gainesville.
“Keep this community in your prayers,” Schultz said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a hard day in Gilchrist County.”