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Family of 5 shot to death in small Illinois town

EMINGTON, Ill. (AP) — Five people, including a baby and two children, were found shot to death Friday at a home in a small eastern Illinois farming town, authorities said, and police said they were not searching for a gunman.

While not specifically saying the shooter was among the dead, Livingston County Sheriff Martin Meredith said the community was “safe from any harm” and authorities “are not looking for anyone in this crime.”

County board member Bob Young, who lives in Emington, said the dead included a man, a woman, an infant, a first grader and a fourth grader. The family had moved to the town of about 100 people about 80 miles southwest of Chicago within the last six months and the two older children attend school in nearby Saunemin, Young said. The street where the family lived was closed by police, he said.

Meredith said first responders found the bodies after Livingston County dispatchers received a call Friday afternoon. Coroner Michael Burke will release the names of the victims once relatives are notified, the sheriff said.

Livingston County authorities and Illinois State Police crime scene technicians were still working the scene late Friday, Meredith said. He declined to release additional details about the shooting, saying more information would be released Saturday morning.

Ronald Groetsema lives near the home where the family was found and said he heard six to eight gunshots, then heard a second round of four to six shots a few minutes later. Groetsema’s 12-year-old son got off the school bus with the children who died, he said.

“They were happy because it was the last day of school before Christmas break,” Groetsema said.

Residents described Emington as a once strictly farming town that has gone through changes in the last 20 years as young families moved in. Young said the town has become more of a bedroom community from which people commute north to cities such as Joliet, about 45 miles away.

“We did have an awful disaster here,” said Emington Mayor Daniel Delaney, who’s been in office for 24 years. “You never would have thought it would happen in our town of 100 people or less. It’s very sad. There were helicopters flying over earlier. Right now it’s just very, very, very sad for us here.”

Delaney said the town is not prosperous and has received help from the state. “It’s always really had a hard time. Most of the people are retired or farmers who moved into town,” he said.

Young said Emington has a post office that’s been targeted for closure and just a handful of small businesses — a grain elevator, a dog groomer and a small beauty salon. The town, he said, had never experienced anything like Friday’s shootings.

“I’ve lived here all my life. I guess, 60, 70 years ago we had a bank robbery, was the other big thing, but otherwise, nothing like this,” he said.

Young said he did not know the family well.

“We’ve seen the kids playing at the playground and talk to them,” Young said. “We thought everything was fine.”

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Associated Press writers David Mercer in Champaign and Karen Hawkins and Caryn Rousseau in Chicago contributed to this report.

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