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Bell Residents Express Sadness, Shock in Wake of Shooting

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Bell Elementary School sign the day after Don Spirit killed shot and killed some of its students and his grandchildren at his home.

On Friday morning, Bell locals woke up to a day of uncertainty and questions surrounding the tragic murders of six children and their mother.

Don Spirit, 51, killed his daughter, six grandchildren and himself on Thursday around 4 p.m. The small town, located in Gilchrist County, reacted with sadness and shock the following day.

While administrators at Bell Elementary School, which many of the deceased children attended, were not available to comment, neighboring Trenton Elementary School went on with what seemed to be “just a pretty normal day,” according to the principal, Lynette Langford.

“This morning I didn’t know if we may have more parents that were walking in students,” Langford said, “but it seemed to be our normal amount of car-riders.”

Shannon Hill’s daughter attends Bell Elementary in the same grade as one of the deceased children, Kaleb Kuhlmann, 11.  Hill, a school bus driver for Gilchrist County, spent the day with her daughter to talk about the shooting.

“We heard on the news,” Hill said, “and we could see that it was Kaleb, but she wasn’t sure if it was the Kaleb that she knew until she got here (Bell Elementary).”

Hill teared up as she spoke about reminiscing with her daughter about times spent playing with Kaleb. Her daughter did not know for sure if it was the same Kaleb she knew until she got to school on Friday. She was upset to hear the news.

“It’s real hard,” Hill said.

David Allen lives less than two miles away from the property where the family members were found. Allen moved to Bell about eight months ago but did not know the family personally.

“Living where I do on ten acres, I hear gunshots daily but that is something that’s common here in this community,” Allen said.

He heard the shots fired Thursday at around ten minutes to 4 p.m., he said; that caught his attention.

“Any type of repeated gunfire catches my attention,” Allen said. “I thought it was fire crackers or a small-caliber weapon. I went inside and watched television after that.”

John Wilkorson, a lifelong Bell resident, said he had never heard of anything like this before. Wilkorson did not know the family personally.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, 62 years, and never anything such as this,” Wilkorson said.

Gov. Rick Scott spoke in response to the shooting at the Gilchrist County Emergency Operations Center on Friday around 1 p.m. Scott said his prayers are with the families of the victims and the community of Bell.

“Everybody knows everybody,” Scott said. “But they have been to the schools. They have been talking to the other students. We are going to do anything we can. We are going to have to help this community get back on its feet.”

The street leading to where the Bell shootings occurred on Thursday Sept. 18.

The street leading to where the Bell shootings occurred on Thursday Sept. 18.

Reporters prepare for Gov. Rick Scott’s statement from Bell, Fla. regarding the shootings on Thursday.

Reporters await for an update regarding the Bell shootings on Thursday.

Gov. Rick Scott addressing media in Bell, Fla.

Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz speaks with media on Friday.

Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Shultz, stands next Gov. Rick Scott at the press conference held at Gilchrist County Emergency Operations Center at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, 2014.

Gov. Rick Scott held at the press conference at the Gilchrist County Emergency Operations Center 1 p.m. Friday, September 19, 2014.

About Alex M. Sanchez

Alex is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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