GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) - Six members of a Texas family apparently opened Christmas presents just before a relative dressed as Santa Claus showed up, opened fire and killed them before killing himself, police said Monday.
Grapevine police spokesman Sgt. Robert Eberling said the shooter showed up in the Santa outfit shortly before gunfire erupted and was a member of the family. The identity of the shooter and the victims will be released after autopsies are conducted Monday, he said.
Police went to the apartment midday Sunday after receiving a 911 call in which no one was on the other line. They found four women and three men, aged 18 to 60, dead. A motive for the shootings remains unclear.
Police confirm three of the victims included a mother and her teenage son and daughter living at the apartment where the shootings happened. Two other victims were from Irving and another from Colleyville.
Investigators worked overnight, meticulously searching the apartment, along with three vehicles parked outside.
"It appears they had just celebrated Christmas. They had opened their gifts," Grapevine Police Sgt. Robert Eberling said Sunday, adding that the apartment was decorated for the holiday, including a tree.
Two handguns were found near the bodies, and it appears all died of gunshot wounds, he said. While authorities recovered two handguns from the apartment, they said they believe only one was in the shootings.
Grapevine Police Lt. Todd Dearing said investigators believe that the victims were related, though some were visiting and didn't live in the apartment. He said police are looking for other relatives to inform of the deaths.
"Seven people in one setting in Grapevine, that's never happened before. Ever," Dearing said.
Police and firefighters first rushed to the Lincoln Vineyards complex after receiving the open-ended 911 call at about 11:30 a.m., Eberling said.
"There was an open line. No one was saying anything," he explained.
So police went into the apartment, located in the middle-class neighborhood of Grapevine, not far from the upscale Fort Worth suburb of Colleyville. The apartment was at the back of the complex, overlooking the athletic fields of Colleyville Heritage High School.
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.
The Dallas Morning News reported the family was having financial troubles and that the mother moved into the Grapevine apartment after separating from her husband, who is still living in the family's Colleyville home just a couple of miles away.
Last year, the bank foreclosed on the home, which was tied go the father's filing for bankruptcy according to federal records, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Neighbors told News 8 that the father had been living at the house and was seen just last week cleaning up leaves in the yard. They said the family lived there for at least 12 years.
Neighbors also told News 8 they believe the father works in real estate. They often saw the mother power walking in the neighborhood and the two teens coming and going. Most everyone said the family kept to themselves
Neighbors in the Lincoln Vineyards Apartment Homes on Sycamore Court said they are sorry for the tragedy, but said they feel safe, believing the shootings to be an isolated incident.
Christy Posch, a flight attendant who moved to the complex about six months ago so her son could attend the high school, said she lives a few buildings away and did not hear any gunshots.
"It's all families. That's why I moved here. No burglaries, no nothing," Posch said.
Associated Press writer Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston contributed to this report.