Image: Home where a woman and three children were slain
Steve Cannon  /  AP
A Tallahassee investigator lifts police tape to pass under at a home where a woman and three children were slain on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla. A woman and three young children were found killed at a violent crime scene and homicide detectives were out looking for whoever might have had a reason to harm them, police said.
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updated 11/21/2010 10:42:04 AM ET 2010-11-21T15:42:04

Autopsies were being performed Sunday on the bodies of a young mother and three small children found slain in what was described by police as a violent crime scene in north Florida.

The street has reopened in front of the modest, single-story home, which was otherwise quiet on Sunday morning except for a single police officer standing guard.

Tallahassee police spokesman David McCranie said the autopsies are being done in the morning, and authorities working to find out who may have wanted to harm the family hope to have more information by the afternoon.

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The home sits in a new subdivision a few miles from the state Capitol.

Detectives described the crime scene inside the home just a few miles from the state Capitol as violent, but police have not elaborated on how the family was killed. Neighbors and relatives have identified the victims as a single, stay-at-home mother and her twin 6-year-old girls and 3-year-old son, but police have not released their names.

The neighborhood had burglaries in recent years, though the crimes had waned with increased police patrols. Authorities hadn't been called to the home before Saturday, McCranie said.

The home is in a subdivision built about five years ago, surrounded by dense woods a few miles from the campuses of Florida State University and Florida A&M University. The neighborhood is made up of a lot of families, McCranie said.

"This is a very shocking and unusual case for us," he said.

The bodies were found after police received a suspicious call at 10:15 a.m. Saturday. By the afternoon, a crowd had gathered outside the house while crime scene investigators came and went.

Dennis Williams, who identified himself as the half-brother of the slain woman, said the mother was 28. Williams, 35, of Albany, Ga., said the two weren't close, but he knew her focus was on her children.

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Cedrica Smith lives across the street and said her kids often played with the children found dead. The twin girls and the boy had different fathers, Smith said, and neither father had been married to the woman.

The deaths were a surprise to 40-year-old Antawn Ellison, who lives two doors down. He said the neighborhood has been mostly free of crime since police stepped up their presence after a rash of burglaries about two years ago.

"This is a big shock to me," he said.

However, a woman who came to the scene from her home in an adjacent neighborhood said crime is still a problem.

"There are a lot of home invasions out here," Sandra Smith said.

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Associated Press writers Suzette Laboy in Miami and Jackie Quinn in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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