An apparent murder-suicide in an upscale neighborhood of Silicon Valley that left three children and three adults dead had police searching Monday for a possible motive.
Authorities said the suspected gunman shot his wife, their two children, and another couple and their child – the wife’s relatives – 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 p.m. 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 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 four-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.
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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 percent 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 Monday night.
The family had moved to the home less than a week ago, according to Cooke.
Jackie Severin, whose husband helped administer first aid to the surviving woman, said the town house had been for rent and she did not know a family with children was living there.
Severin wasn’t home on Sunday night, but said her husband, Sergei, did not hear any shots and found out something was amiss when a neighbor came to the door and told him about the bleeding woman on the sidewalk. Her husband grabbed several sheets to cover her up and saw the door of the town house open, but did not go inside, she said.
Residents described Rivermark, a seven-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.”
Michael O’Moore, regional director for Challenger School, confirmed Monday that the four-year-old girl and the 11-year-old boy were enrolled at the private school’s Sunnyvale campus, but declined to give any other information.
Cooke said he could recall three other family shootings in the last several years in Santa Clara, a city of about 108,000.
In 2002,a woman killed her estranged husband, two daughters and herself in her home. In 2003, a man smothered and drowned his three-year-old son and a 12-year-old stepdaughter before jumping off a cliff in Santa Cruz. Also in 2003, a man shot his wife and three children while they were visiting from Orange County.
Santa Clara was rocked by another shooting in November, when authorities say a Silicon Valley engineer opened fire at an office park hours after being fired from his job, killing three colleagues.