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The school day ended Thursday like any other: Teachers at Bell Elementary School in Florida put the siblings on their bus for home — but with no clue of the horror awaiting them. About an hour later at 4 p.m., the children — remembered fondly as “happy-go-lucky” — were dead. “It’s a tough, tough morning at Bell Elementary School,” Gilchrist County Schools Superintendent Robert Rankin said at a news conference Friday. The six siblings — ranging from ages 11 to just 10 weeks old — were fatally shot along with their mother, 28-year-old Sarah Lorraine Spirit. The gunman was identified as Spirit’s father, 51-year-old Don Spirit, a convicted felon.
Police were continuing Friday to process the gruesome crime scene in the tiny town of Bell, about 35 miles west of Gainesville. A motive remained under investigation, although authorities said Don Spirit acted alone and there were no survivors. As a convicted felon, Spirit wasn’t legally allowed to own a gun. Police said they had recently been called to the home, but those incidents were not domestic violence-related. Don Spirit previously spent three years in prison for the accidental shooting and killing of his 8-year-old son in 2001. Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz said the murders are “devastating” for Bell, where “everyone knows everyone.”