Killer Santa guns down 7 in Texas

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, the 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.

The police went to the apartment midday Sunday after dispatchers received a phone call in which no one was on the line. They found four women and three men, aged 18 to 60, dead. A motive for the shootings remains unclear. Investigators meticulously searching the apartment. "It appears they had just celebrated Christmas. They had opened their gifts,'' Grapevine Police Sgt Robert Eberling said late Sunday, adding that the apartment was decorated for the holiday.

Two handguns were found near the bodies, and it appears all died of gunshot wounds, he said.

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. Many of the nearby apartments are vacant, and the police said no neighbours reported hearing anything.

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