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Mother, 2 daughters and female relative found dead in San Clemente home [Updated]

December 15, 2009 |  7:50 am

A 38-year-old mother and her two daughters, ages 2 1/2 and 4, were among four family members found dead in a home in a gated San Clemente neighborhood, authorities said this morning.

Another relative, a woman in her 60s, also was found dead in the home on Calle Sonador, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Me-san-clemente-dead-g [Updated at 9:51 a.m.: Authorities are now calling the case a murder-suicide. The bodies found in the hallway were so close together they were touching, authorities said. But they still cannot say how the family died and who the killer was.

“There's no question the two children were killed first, and one of the adult females is the killer, which is unusual by itself,” Amormino said. Investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy, which is expected to identify the victims and causes of death.]

Authorities are working to notify their relatives while the coroner examines the bodies. They expect to release the victims' names and the suspected cause of death later this morning, Amormino said. He said the girls' father is not a suspect in the case.

"We know where the father was, and the father was nowhere near the crime scene." Amormino said.

Officials have not said how the four died but are investigating the slayings as a domestic dispute or child- custody battle.

The victims were apparently found lying together in a hallway on the second floor of the home after deputies arrived shortly before 2 p.m. Monday on a "welfare check," Amormino said.

"We are conducting an active death investigation," he said, adding the crime was confined to the house. "There's no killer out there. The incident is contained to that residence."

Neighbors apparently alerted the homeowner about a possible domestic dispute in the Talega neighborhood. The owner then called deputies to check on the residents because he felt "something just wasn't right," Amormino said. The owner said the tenant had a house full of visitors.

If classified as homicides, they would be the first of the year for the city of 61,000 just north of Camp Pendleton, according to officials at the sheriff’s department's San Clemente station.

The only killings in San Clemente in 2008 also took the lives of a family living in a gated community.

Last May, two young women, their parents and a grandmother killed themselves in their San Clemente home, using Vicodin, sleeping pills, antidepressants and a gun. Police closed the case after a six-month investigation.

-- Tony Barboza and Robert J. Lopez