Six killed in apparent murder-suicide in Santa Clara

A father is suspected of killing his two children and three other relatives before taking his own life in an upscale neighborhood of Silicon Valley where the family had recently moved.

world Updated: Mar 31, 2009 16:28 IST

An apparent murder-suicide in an upscale neighborhood of Silicon Valley that left three children and three adults dead had police searching for a possible motive. At least some of the victims were from India.

Authorities said the suspected gunman shot his wife, their two children, and another couple and their child - the wife's relatives on Sunday before turning the gun on himself.

The 42-year-old gunman's wife, a woman in her mid-30s, managed to escape from the town house where officers later found the other five bodies in a "very horrific" scene, police said. She was in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds, according to Santa Clara Police Lt Phil Cooke.

Authorities said a neighbor called police at about 8:30 pm on Sunday after hearing a noise outside and finding the injured woman bleeding on a sidewalk in the Santa Clara community of Rivermark about seven miles (11 kilometers) northwest of San Jose, Cooke said. Scattered inside the three-story town house, officers discovered the bodies of the suspected gunman's 11-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter and a 35-year-old man and his 25-year-old wife, both visiting from India _ all of them shot dead, police said. The suspected gunman was found on the top floor, dead from a self-inflicted wound, according to Santa Clara Police Capt Mike Sellers.

An 11-month-old girl _ the child of the couple who had recently come from India _ was alive when paramedics arrived, but died overnight at a local hospital, according to police. Police said they did not expect to disclose the identities of the people involved until Tuesday, saying they still needed to notify next of kin.

"We want to be 150 per cent sure we get the identities right, but that is a challenge right now," Cooke said.

Investigators also were working to determine a possible motive for the rampage although they say financial issues do not appear to be a factor. Cooke said two handguns were recovered at the scene. "We're very confident that this is a case of a family-related murder-suicide," Cooke said on Monday night.

The family had moved to the home less than a week ago, according to Cooke.

Residents described Rivermark, a 7-year-old planned community with a shopping center, playgrounds and a mix of townhouses, condominiums and Spanish-style houses that go for $1 million, as relatively quiet. Located near several high-tech companies, it draws a mix of retirees and young professionals.

"It's the sleepiest little area. Nothing ever happens here," said Jackie Stewart, who walked with her husband over to the crime scene.

Along with another mother, nearby resident Sameena Usman placed two bouquets of flowers and a stuffed dog inside the yellow police tape cordoning off the street.

"It's a sad situation. We're pretty tight-knit around here," Usman said while pushing her toddler son in a stroller. "Their children could've played with my kids."

Santa Clara was rocked by another shooting in November, when authorities say a Silicon Valley engineer from China opened fire at an office park hours after being fired from his job, killing three colleagues.

In Illinois, two young boys missing for three weeks were found dead in the back seat of their father's car, apparently killed by their dad before he took his own life, authorities said on Monday. An emergency call led authorities in Putnam County to a remote spot on Sunday night where they found 9-year-old Duncan Connolly and his 7-year-old brother, Jack. They discovered the body of 40-year-old Michael Connolly about 60 yards (55 meters) away. The boys, from the small town of Leroy, were the subject of a national search after their father failed to return them to their mother, Amy Leichtenberg, on March 8 following a weekend custody visit. The couple divorced in 2006 and Connolly only recently had been allowed to keep his sons overnight.

Autopsies were being conducted on Monday, but McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery, whose department investigated the boys' disappearance, and Putnam County Sheriff Kevin Doyle said the case was being treated as a double homicide-suicide.

In Florida, three people were found dead Monday in a Tampa Bay-area home in what police described as a possible murder-suicide. A fourth person, Sherry Hice, was shot, but survived. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office deputies forced their way into the back of the home and found the bodies of Hice's roommate, Michael Duane Roberts, 57; Hice's son, Tyler Newman, 21; and Newman's girlfriend, Taylor Reiterman, 16. A mixed breed lab was also killed.

Authorities haven't identified the killer or determined a motive. Court documents indicate a recent history of domestic disturbances at the home in Largo, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Tampa. Roberts' family told the St Petersburg Times that he let Hice, a breast cancer survivor, and her son move in about a year ago but that they didn't pay rent, invited people over and allowed Newman's girlfriend to move in. They were aware of tensions in the home but didn't suspect the situation would erupt into violence.

First Published: Mar 31, 2009 11:23 IST