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Family of 5 shot to death in small Illinois town

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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 Dec. 16, 2011. Five people, including a baby and two children, were found shot to death Friday at the home in the small eastern Illinois farming town, authorities said, and police said they were not searching for a gunman. (AP Photo/Nicholas Holstein - Daily Journal)

EMINGTON, Ill. >> A neighbor said Saturday she saw an Illinois woman shoot at her 10-month-old baby before apparently killing herself.

Authorities have said five people, including two children and a baby, were killed in a murder-suicide, but they haven’t identified the shooter. The bodies were found Friday in Emington, a small farming community about 80 miles southwest of Chicago.

Neighbor Annelise Fiedler told The Associated Press that she heard a round of shots Friday afternoon and ran outside to her backyard.

She saw 30-year-old Sara McMeen in the next yard over hovering over her baby as if she’d dropped her. Fiedler asked McMeen if everything was alright, and "she looked at me and said, ‘No, everything is not alright."

McMeen fired a shot at the infant, "and then I just ran," said Fiedler, a town trustee. Fiedler said she didn’t see or hear what happened after that, and she didn’t see any of the other victims.

Along with McMeen, Livingston County coroner Michael Burke identified them as 29-year-old Daniel Warren, 8-year-old Skyler Lemke, 7-year-old Ian Lemke and 10-month-old Maggie Warren.

Livingston County Sheriff Martin Meredith said all the children belonged to Sara McMeen, and he described Daniel Warren as her live-in boyfriend.

McMeen’s mother, Cynthia McMeen, of nearby Dwight, issued a statement on behalf of her family asking for prayers and privacy.

"The family is drawing together during this time, relying on God, and grieving," it said. "They would ask for your prayers for all the families involved and would like their privacy to be honored."

Fiedler said she heard a man and woman fighting inside the home several times over the past few months. She said the couple kept "very much to themselves."

Neighbor Dave Melton said he returned home after receiving a frantic call from his wife, who yelled into the phone, "the kids are dead." From his house, he could see Ian Lemke’s body drooped over the stairs leading up to the home, and the bodies of Sara McMeen and the older daughter about 10 feet away in the backyard.

"I stood here for a while like, this ain’t happening," Melton said.

Meredith said a semiautomatic pistol was recovered at the scene. The sheriff, a father in his first year in office, called the situation "very gut-wrenching."

Neighbors have said the family moved to Emington recently. They were living in a rented house, and a woman who said her brother-in-law owned it declined, when contacted by telephone, to comment until she talked to him.

Meredith said 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.

Beth Barcikowski, who lives across the street, said her own children used to play with the Lemkes and Skyler would come to their home before and after getting on the school bus.

She’s haunted by the idea that the little girl was shot just as she got home from school.

"Just wishing she would’ve come here first," Barcikowski said.


Associated Press writer Karen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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