AÂ Christmas tragedyÂ gets worse: The Texas family found dead in the Dallas area Saturday had just opened their Christmas presents when one of their relatives apparently burst in dressed as Santa, shot them all, and then turned the gun on himself, Newser reports.
The dead â€“ four women and three men between the ages of 15 and 58 â€“ were found on Sunday morning in an apartment living-room by police answering a voiceless 911 emergency call, police said.
“By all appearances, they’re all part of the same family,” said Sergeant Robert Eberling of the Grapevine police department, adding that some were related through marriage.
“We think he was just inside there celebrating Christmas with the rest of them and decided for whatever reason that’s how he’s going to end things,” Eberling said, according to Huff Post.
Eberling said the suspected shooter was dressed in a Father Christmas suit but gave no further details.
“We have a petty good idea who these folks were, and we’re trying to work through contacting other family members so we can better piece together what took place and why it took place,” he said.
Eberling said investigators were assembling a “family history,” and that the apartment was leased to a woman and her two children, one age 15 and the other either 19 or 20. He would not give other specifics.
“We’re getting a clearer picture, but we’re not ready to go on the record with anything until we find out from the medical examiner absolute confirmation of identities and the manner of death,” Eberling said.
Two pistols were recovered from the home, said Eberling, who called it a “gruesome crime scene” and the worst outburst of gun violence in the town’s history.
Circumstances of the shooting remained sketchy, but Eberling said it appeared as though the bloodbath unfolded during a family holiday celebration. No one was found alive by police arriving at the home, he said.
Autopsies of the shooter and the victims were being done Monday by the Tarrant County medical examiner, but it would probably be Tuesday before their identities were released, he said.
Roger Metcalf, a spokesman for the medical examiner’s office, said the victims have been tentatively identified, but the office couldn’t confirm the names because the state driver’s license fingerprint database wasn’t available on the holiday.
“In addition, we need to locate next of kin before information can be released, and our investigators are working on that as well,” Metcalf wrote in an email to the AP.
Records show the couple who used to live in the house had financial problems and that their home, most recently valued on the county tax rolls at $336,200, had been sold in 2010 at a foreclosure auction â€“ although it appeared the man was still living there.
Police and firefighters rushed to the Lincoln Vineyards complex about 11:30 a.m. after receiving a 911 call in which no one was on the other end of the line. Because no one responded on the phone, police went into the apartment, located at the back of the complex.
Many of the nearby apartments are vacant, and police said no neighbors reported hearing anything on a quiet Christmas morning when many people were not around.
According to The Telegraph, a community of about 46,000 people some 20 miles northwest of downtown Dallas, Grapevine is known for its wine-tasting salons and was proclaimed by the state Senate as the “Christmas Capital of Texas” for its abundance of annual holiday-season events.
“This is obviously a terrible tragedy,” Mayor William Tate said on Sunday night in a statement. “The fact that it happened on Christmas makes it even more tragic.”