Santa gunman kills family in Christmas Day massacre

SIX members of a Texas family who lived in an area dubbed a “Christmas Capital” may have been the victims of a relative dressed as Santa, who killed them, then killed himself just after they opened Christmas presents, police said last night.

Grapevine police spokesman Sergeant Robert Eberling said the person they believe is responsible for the deaths showed up in the Santa outfit shortly before gunfire erupted and was a member of the family.

“By all appearances, they’re all part of the same family,” he added.

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Neighbours spoke of their shock after four women and three men, aged 18 to 60, were found dead in an adjoining kitchen and living room area.

Police arrived at the apartment on Christmas Day after emergency serivces received a phone call from the house with no-one on the line. A motive for the shootings remains unclear.

Investigators worked overnight into Boxing Day, searching the apartment, along with three vehicles parked outside.

“It appears they had just celebrated Christmas. They had opened their gifts,” Sgt Eberling said.

Two handguns were found near the bodies, and it appears all died of gunshot wounds, he added. Lieutenant Todd Dearing said investigators believe that the victims were related, though some were visiting for the festive season and did not live in the apartment.

Last night, police were looking for other members of the family to inform them of the deaths.

Lt Dearing said the murders were the worst the area had ever encountered.

“Seven people in one setting in Grapevine – that’s never happened before, ” he said.

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Many of the nearby apartments are vacant, and police said no neighbours reported hearing anything on a quiet Christmas morning when many people were not around.

The community of about 46,000 people some 20 miles northwest of Dallas, Grapevine was proclaimed by the state Senate as the “Christmas Capital of Texas” for its abundance of annual festive season events. But neighbours spoke of their shock at the killings in what they said was a family-friendly area.

Jose Fernandez, a 35-year-old mechanic who moved to the complex with his family six months ago, said he always felt safe in the area, but is now afraid to let his ten-year-old son play freely outside.

“This is really outrageous especially on Christmas,” said Mr Fernandez, who was visiting family and returned to find several police cars parked outside his home.

“This has shocked everybody. It has scared everybody. I guess something like this can happen anywhere, but seven people dead. It’s just very scary,” he added.

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,” Ms Posch said.

“This is obviously a terrible tragedy,” the town’s mayor, William Tate said.

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“The fact that it happened on Christmas makes it even more tragic.”