A decade prior, Don had stated, “The one medicine I have is my family.”
Sarah Lorraine Spirit was the oldest child, and only daughter, of Don and Christine Spirit. In 2002, the family moved to a small town about 30 miles west of Gainesville, FL. The Spirits joined the approximate 450 other residents of Bell, FL. Sarah was about 16 when they settled into their mobile, which sat on 2 acres.
When Sarah and her brothers, Josh and Kyle, were growing up, the siblings had watched in horror as their father physically abused their mother. Sometimes he roughed them up a little too. Don was a regular in the prison system — having been booked for offenses such as theft, battery, drunk driving, leaving the scene of an accident, unlawful firearm possession and felony marijuana possession. He had also been charged with depriving a child of food and shelter at one point. Don was eventually diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder, however he refused to take medication.
Don changed his mind about taking medicine though after a horrendous tragedy occurred on November 14, 2001. Don and his sons were at Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area near Kenansville when Don’s rifle went off accidentally as he was looking at a rust spot on the barrel. A bullet discharged from the weapon, hitting eight year-old Kyle right in the head, killing him.
Although the shooting was deemed an accident, Don went to prison for three years in 2003, after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. It was the minimum sentence allowed; the judge had acknowledged Don’s greatest punishment — that of losing a child.
Prior to his trial, Don, then 51, told a newspaper reporter that, unable to cope with his son’s death, he had gone to a mental health facility. “The medication, I’ve tried it. It ain’t working,” he said. “The one medicine I have is my family.”
Sarah was 15 when she lost her younger brother. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Bell. Sarah had her first child at 17 with her long-time boyfriend Edward Kuhlmann. Two years later, Sarah gave birth to her second child. Don had been in prison during these births, but was back home when Sarah and Edward had their third child, a daughter whom they named Kylie, after Kyle.