By Tim Madigan and Domingo Ramirez Jr., McClatchy Newspapers
GRAPEVINE, Texas — Seven members of a family were found shot to death Christmas morning in the living room of a Grapevine apartment, apparently just after opening Christmas presents, police said Sunday.
Authorities believe the deaths were a murder-suicide.
Two handguns without silencers were discovered at the Lincoln Vineyards Apartments and there were no signs of forced entry.
“We believe the shooter is one of those dead in the apartment,” said Grapevine police Lt. Todd Dearing in a telephone interview at the scene.
Residents expressed shock in the shootings.
“I went from joy and thankfulness of Christmas to just pain and sorrow for people you don’t even know,” said resident Claire Comparato, who was crying as she talked to a relative on a cellphone.
Grapevine police officers responded to the location shortly after 11:30 a.m. Sunday after a 911 dispatcher received an open-line call.
“Someone from the apartment called,” Dearing said. “But no one was on the line when a dispatcher answered it.”
A patrol officer answering the call looked through an apartment window and saw the bodies, Dearing said. Authorities then forced open the door.
Paramedics who arrived at the scene later determined that everyone in the apartment was dead.
All seven people were found near a Christmas tree in a living room area of the two-story apartment, police said.
“It’s a great tragedy, something our department has not seen before,” said Grapevine police Sgt. Robert Eberling. “You read about these types of reports, but they always seem to happen somewhere else.”
Police had not released any names of the victims. As of late Sunday afternoon, the bodies remained in the apartment as police awaited search warrants to go back inside, police said.
Two of the women and one man were young adults, ages 18-20, police said. The other two women were adults and the two other men were in the their 50s to 60s, Dearing said.
Dearing said that authorities believe it was a family Christmas gathering.
“There were Christmas presents that had been opened,” Dearing said.
Investigators believe the shooting may have happened just before the 911 call.
“An apartment next to them was vacant and a resident in an apartment behind them didn’t hear anything,” Dearing said.
Dearing said that investigators also were trying to determine how many of the seven family members lived at the apartment.
“We don’t know if some family members were visiting or if everyone lived there,” Dearing said. One resident said she believed the family had moved there in the summer.