Police who forced their way into a small brick house discovered the bodies of four adults and two children, as well as three children found clinging to life.
Police said they were investigating the case as a multiple homicide but otherwise released little information early Tuesday, including whether they believed the killer was at large.
Children ages 7 and 4 and a 10-month-old baby were taken to Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center, Memphis Fire Department spokeswoman Melanie Young told The Associated Press. She did not know the ages or sexes of the other victims, but police told The Commercial Appeal newspaper all the children were under the age of 12.
"We just don't know the motive or cause of death, but we do have four adults and two children (dead)," Memphis police Lt. Jerry Guin told the newspaper.
Young said the victims had been shot. At least one of the children had been stabbed, police said.
The Commercial Appeal reported on Monday night that one of the children had been upgraded to stable condition and another upgraded to critical while the third remained in extremely critical condition.
Hospital spokeswoman Jennilyn Utkov told The Associated Press the family has requested that no information be released on the children's conditions.
Family kept to themselves
Authorities were called to the house by a relative who knocked on the door around 6 p.m. Monday but did not get an answer.
Detectives and crime scene specialists were still at the scene late Monday night and authorities cordoned off a block in either direction.
Dark, narrow streets in the low-income working class neighborhood, still wet from heavy rains, showed little signs of life late Monday except for the flashing lights of police cars.
Wayne Bolden, who lives across the street from the scene of the shooting, told The Associated Press that the adult male occupant of the house periodically fired shots in his yard.
"He'd shoot on the 4th of July and New Year's Eve," Bolden said. "He'd have company over and I'd hear the shots."
He said the family there kept to themselves, but he would see four or five children from the house riding bicycles occasionally.
"It's a pretty quiet neighborhood; nothing of this magnitude has ever happened here," Bolden said.
Rob Robinson, who owns the brick, single-family home where the shootings occurred, told The Commercial Appeal the house was rented, and that a man, his girlfriend, a baby, and at least one other child lived there.
"They were very nice, very polite to me," Robinson said, adding that the man paid $550 in cash every month for rent. "It's kind of surprising, actually. I've never had any trouble with them, no damage to the property. They paid their rent and even helped with repairs and stuff."
Police were uncertain whether the man was among the victims.
"I can't imagine it happening, especially with the kids involved," neighbor Clarence Exum told The Commercial Appeal.
Exum said there had been a disturbance at the house over the weekend.
"Some girl was out there on Saturday blowing her (car) horn," he said.
Robinson said the man living at the home had problems with a former girlfriend.
"When I was over there, there were a lot of heated conversations over the phone," he said.