updated 12/25/2003 5:25:22 PM ET 2003-12-25T22:25:22

Firefighters battling blazes at two homes in neighboring New York communities Thursday found five people dead, at least four of them killed by shotgun blasts, police said.

Authorities said both fires had been set in an apparent domestic dispute on Christmas morning. They declined to immediately identify any of the victims, all adults, but said they believe the three female victims were related.

According to Schenectady Police Chief Michael Geraci Sr., a man went to the home of the first victim, his girlfriend or ex-girlfriend, and killed her before going to the nearby apartment, shooting three people and turning the gun on himself.

“It’s not uncommon for law enforcement to see holiday massacres,” said Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney. “When they happen, they are usually crimes of passion.”

Firefighters were called to a house fire around 5 a.m. in the town of Niskayuna, just outside of Schenectady, and found a woman dead inside. Authorities did not immediately disclose the cause of her death but said it was a homicide and she did not die from the fire.

Thirty minutes later, smoke was reported at an apartment in Schenectady, 10 miles northwest of Albany. Two men and two women were found fatally shot inside, and a shotgun was found in the apartment.

The blaze was contained to the apartment where the bodies were found, officials said.

Fred Perillo, 53, who lives nearby and owns the body shop next to the apartment, said a woman lived there with another woman he believed was her daughter. He heard the sirens and saw the flames Thursday morning.

“They were normal nice people,” Perillo said. “They were quiet. They were clean. They don’t bother anybody.”

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