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Investigators work at the scene of a murder/suicide in the small town of Emington, south of Dwight, Illinois Friday night AP Photo/Nicholas Holstein - Daily Journal

Family of five killed in suspected murder-suicide

Five members of a family, including three children, were killed in what is thought to be a murder-suicide in a small town in Illinois.

A COMMUNITY HAS been left shocked following five murders that took place in a small Illinois town.

The dead included 30-year-old Sara McMeen, her 29-year-old live-in boyfriend, Daniel Warren, and her three children, 8-year-old Skyler Lemke, 7-year-old Ian Lemke and 10-month-old Maggie Warren, authorities said.

A burst of gunfire sent Annelise Fiedler running out of her home to see what the noise was. In the yard next door, she saw Sara McMeen hovering over her baby as if she had dropped her. Fiedler asked McMeen if everything was all right.

“She looked at me and said, ‘No, everything is not all right,’” Fiedler told The Associated Press.

Then, Fiedler said, McMeen shot the baby. Fiedler fled for her life.

Livingston County Sheriff Martin Meredith would not identify the shooter or disclose a possible motive for the shootings, which happened about 2.30pm on Friday.

A school bus had dropped off Skyler and Ian Lemke, along with several of their friends, moments earlier, neighbours said.

The children were excited because it was the last day of school before Christmas break, said Ronald Groetsema, whose 12-year-old son was also on the bus.

From his home one street away, Groetsema heard an initial round of six to eight gunshots. A few minutes of silence passed. Then, he heard four to six shots more.

Dave Melton rushed home after getting a frantic call from his wife, who could see McMeen’s backyard from her window.

“The kids are dead,” she told him.

On Friday, Melton saw Ian Lemke’s body on the step leading into the neighbouring house and McMeen’s and Skyler’s bodies about 10 feet away.

All five were pronounced dead at the scene. Meredith said investigators found a semi-automatic pistol there, but wouldn’t say exactly where.

In a statement issued by authorities, Cynthia McMeen, Sara McMeen’s mother, said family members “grieved over the loss of their loved ones.”

“They realise this tragedy … affects not only their family, but other families as well,” she said in the statement.

The family is drawing together during this time, relying on God, and grieving.

Neighbours said McMeen and her family had moved recently to Emington, a town about a half-mile long with just 117 residents.

The family rented a home that, according to longtime resident Bob Young, was known as the “banker’s house” before the town bank closed years ago.

The two older children attended school in nearby Saunemin, where Skyler was in second grade and Ian was in first grade. The children were well-known in the neighborhood, but the adults were not.

About 30 people gathered in an Emington church Saturday morning to pray and try to understand what happened.

Some residents said they had moved from larger towns to find a safe, quiet place to raise their families.

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