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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Police: Calif. Man Kills 4 Kids, Himself
By OLIVIA MUNOZ (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated PressJuly 04, 2006 10:49 PM EDT

GUSTINE, Calif. -

A man who was seen arguing with his wife Tuesday later killed his four young children in their home with a hunting rifle before turning the gun on himself, officials said.

The children apparently died of gunshots to the head, and their father, Trevor Branscum, 38, died of a self-inflicted wound, Mayor Jim Bonta said.

Police Sgt. Vince Inaudi said the children appeared to be sleeping when they were shot. The evidence was consistent with a murder-suicide, but the department planned to conduct a full homicide investigation, he said.

Authorities identified the dead siblings as Aubrie, 12; Jacob, 10; and twins Taylor and Alyssa, both 5. The wife, Amanda Branscum, was uninjured, officials said.

The Branscums had lived in Gustine for three years, and there were no reports of domestic violence with the family, Inaudi said. Trevor and Amanda Branscum were married on Valentine's Day in 2003, Inaudi said. All four children were theirs.

Steven Morris, 18, who lived across the street from the Branscums, said he saw the family lighting fireworks on their front lawn Monday night.
"They always seemed really happy," Morris said. "I never heard any arguments from the house. It's sad because the kids didn't do anything. Kids don't deserve that."

The bloodshed came about an hour after a store owner called police to report that Trevor Branscum and his wife were arguing.
Amanda Branscum went in to buy a few things, and her husband followed her into the market, police said. The merchant said that as the woman drove away in a van, her husband dove through the window. The store owner declined to comment on the dispute that preceded the violence.

As officers searched for the van, police said, another call came in at 1:30 a.m. of shots fired at the Branscum home. Officers saw Amanda Branscum lying in the road uninjured; the bodies of Trevor Branscum and the children were inside the house.

Gustine, with a population of about 5,200, is about 90 miles northwest of Fresno in California's San Joaquin Valley. The deaths Tuesday were the community's first reported killings in nearly four decades.
"It's kind of shocking in this area," said 41-year-old neighbor Francisco Torres, whose daughter was friends with Aubrie. "You always hear about crime in other cities, but it's shocking because it's your own neighbors."
Associated Press Writer Justin M. Norton in San Francisco contributed to this report.