GRAPEVINE, Texas - A 56-year-old suburban Dallas man facing marital and financial problems killed his estranged wife, two teenage children and three other family members on Christmas Day while dressed as Santa Claus before turning the gun on himself, authorities said Tuesday.
A police spokeswoman said Aziz Yazdanpanah died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and the six others were shot to death.
Police responding Sunday morning to a 911 call made without anyone on the line found the seven people inside an apartment near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. It appeared they had been opening presents around their Christmas tree just before the attack.
Yazdanpanah became the focus of detectives after his sport utility vehicle was found outside the apartment. The slayings have shaken friends and neighbors who knew Yazdanpanah and his wife, both of whom were born in Iran, as well as their two U.S.-born children.
"The Persian community is devastated," said Mashy Modjdehi, who knew both Yazdanpanah's wife of 24 years, Fatemah Rahmati, as well as her sister, Zohreh. Modjdehi called the two sisters "the nicest people in the world angels."
Authorities said those killed were: Yazdanpanah, 56; Rahmati, 55; Nona Yazdanpanah, 19; Ali Yazdanpanah, 14; Mohamad Hossein Zarei, 59; Zohreh Rahmaty, 58; and Sara Fatemeh Zarei, 22.
Grapevine police spokesman Robert Eberling said Tuesday that detectives believe Yazdanpanah's marital and financial troubles led him to kill his family.
Yazdanpanah's wife filed for bankruptcy in August 2010, and she told her attorney she hoped the proceedings would stave off foreclosure of the home where the family had lived for more than a decade.
In the midst of the bankruptcy, she separated from Yazdanpanah and the proceedings were later dismissed because she failed to make the plan payments, said the attorney, George Barnes.
Yazdanpanah's wife, known to family and friends as Nasrin, moved out of the couple's 3,010-square-foot home in the neighboring suburb of Colleyville in April and into the apartment complex two miles away where the shooting took place. The two children moved with her.
Records show the couple had financial problems and that their home, most recently valued on the county tax rolls at $336,200, had been sold in 2010 at a foreclosure auction although it appeared the man was still living there.
The shootings Sunday were the first homicides in Grapevine in more than a year and a half.
Many of the nearby apartments are vacant, and police said no neighbors reported hearing anything on a quiet Christmas morning when many people were not around.