McMINNVILLE, Ore. (AP) _ Teachers noticed the four Bryant children had been absent for days, so school officials stopped by, only to find the curtains drawn.
Their father, a landscaper, didn't return calls about contract work that was left undone.
But it wasn't until worried neighbors approached two Yamhill County sheriff's deputies who were in the area Thursday night on an unrelated call that the gruesome truth was discovered: the family of six had been shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide.
The children _ ages 8 to 15 _ were found in their beds, dressed in their night clothes. Their mother, 37-year-old Janet Ellen Bryant, was found on the floor in the master bedroom.
Robert Bryant, 37, who is believed to have murdered them before turning the shotgun on himself, was found in the living room, said Yamhill County District Attorney Bradley C. Berry.
``It was a horrible sight,'' Berry said of the deaths, which rank among Oregon's worst mass murders. The motive was not known.
The children were last at school on Feb. 22, and the shootings are believed to have occurred the following night, he said.
Karen Richey, assistant superintendent for the McMinnville School District, said teachers had noticed the children's absence from school and several attempts were made to contact the Bryants.
``We had people knocking on the door several times,'' but no one ever answered the door, she said.
At first school officials weren't alarmed, because it is not uncommon for students to be absent during the flu season, she said.
Two Yamhill County sheriff's deputies were in the area Thursday night when neighbors asked them to check on the family.
The deputies used a ladder to look into a window in the rear of the house and spotted Robert Bryant's body.
The Bryants moved last summer to Oregon from the Sacramento, Calif., area, where they had lived for nearly a decade, according to Mark Messier, a family friend. Court records show that before they moved, Bryant had filed for bankruptcy.
Messier said the family's move came as a surprise.
``Their uncles and aunts and grandparents all loved those kids, and they wanted to maintain contact, but Rob wouldn't let them,'' Messier said. ``We don't even know when they moved. They just up and went.''
The hillside home sits on about two acres in a rural subdivision outside McMinnville, a prosperous town in the heart of Oregon's vineyard country. The town is about 35 miles southwest of Portland.