INDIANAPOLIS -- A day after seven members of a family were shot to death in a hardscrabble section of the city's near East Side, neighbors battled fear and anxiety yesterday even as police were hunting a man suspected of carrying out the rampage.
Indianapolis Police Chief Michael Spears said the city had never seen a single case in which so many people were killed. Preliminary evidence suggests that the slayings were carried out during a robbery, he said, and the suspect still at large - identified as Desmond Turner - was believed to have opened fire.
"You can't image what something like this does to our neighborhood," said Maria Gonzalez, 40, standing near a small wood-frame home in the 500 block of N. Hamilton Ave., where police could be seen removing evidence and conducting interviews.
"It leaves all of us feeling sick, and worried about our own families," said the mother of two, standing by a curb with about 10 worried neighbors and friends.
The day began with hundreds of officers and detectives combing the neighborhood and talking to residents about what they saw about 10 p.m. Thursday. Authorities said some of that information helped them arrest one of the two men they believe carried out the robbery and killings.
Killed were Alberto Covarrubias, 58; his wife, Emma Valdez, 46; her two grown children, Magno Albarran, 29, and Flora Albarran, 22; along with the couple's two children, David Covarrubias, 8, and Alberto Covarrubias, 11. Flora Albarran's son, Luis, 5, also was found dead.
Authorities said the bodies of the three boys were found on a bed, and four adults were discovered elsewhere in the house, in a section of the city where boarded-up homes and vacant lots are a common sight.
Family members said they were not convinced that robbery was the motive.
"Nothing was taken from my sister's house," said Miguel Flores, 28, brother of Emma Valdez. "Emma kept her house in order, and it looks to be in order except where the bodies were found."
Flores said the two Covarrubias brothers recently completed their First Communion. Valdez and the elder Alberto Covarrubias had lived in Indianapolis for about 20 years, coming from Guerrero in Mexico.
For much of the day, the family's friends and neighbors gathered outside the victims' house to pray, talk together about their experiences with the family and help ease each other's fears about killings no one was certain had come to an end.
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson spent several hours yesterday talking to those who lived near the site of the killings. Part of his mission, city officials said, was to help restore calm to a frightened neighborhood.
"I grabbed my little daughter, and we both ran inside my house," said Kathern Dodson, 20, recalling how she heard about 17 shots come from her neighbor's house Thursday night.
"I heard the pop, pop, pop of gunfire. I just knew something bad had happened. When is all of this going to be over?" she asked, running her fingers through her hair.
Maria Gonzalez, 40, said she often saw Emma Valdez walk her two children to school in the mornings. There was never any indication the family had any problems in the neighborhood, she said.
"This was a very kind family," she said. "Emma would walk her children to school in the mornings. This was a very good person, and not someone who would cause anyone trouble."