ELKLAND, MO., SEPT. 25 -- A 14-year-old farm youth went on a predawn rampage today near this tiny Ozark crossroads town, shooting to death his parents and three younger brothers, then driving several miles before killing his aunt and dying in a bloody struggle that left his uncle wounded, authorities said.

The body of Kirk Buckner was found in the hallway of the uncle's farm home about five miles from the Buckner house, where investigators believe that the spree began. A pistol was in his right hand, they said.

Friends and teachers described him as an even-tempered and hard-working churchgoer.

Webster County Sheriff Eugene Fraker said there was no immediate indication of a motive but noted that the boy's family "was hard-pressed for money, like many farm families in this area."

The youth's father, Steve, 35, operated a 110-acre dairy farm and a small feed store and artificially inseminated cattle. The family farm home is dilapidated and overgrown with weeds.

"They were as hard a working people as you ever saw," said Steve Adamson, a police officer from nearby Marshfield investigating the case. "They were good people."

Fraker said the bodies of Buckner's oldest brothers -- Dennis, 8, and Tim, 6 -- were found in their bunkbed and that Michael, 2, was in bed in another room. He said they apparently had been shot in the head at close range with a .22-cal. pistol as they slept.

Buckner's mother, Jan, 36, was found on the ground outside a milk shed. Fraker said she had milked three cows and apparently headed for the house when she heard gunshots.

The body of Steve Buckner, described as weighing about 250 pounds, was found in a ditch about two miles from the house near the Pleasant View Church cemetery. Authorities said there were two .22-cal. bullet holes in his head.

Fraker speculated that Kirk Buckner had surprised his father sitting in a pickup truck on the farm, shot him, drove about two miles and pushed his body to the roadside.

The youth then drove the truck about three more miles to the home of his father's sister, Julie Schnick, 30, and her husband, James, 36, where the episode ended in more bloodshed and death, the sheriff said.

Authorities learned of the killings when James Schnick, badly wounded and aided by his two preschool-age children, called the sheriff's department dispatcher at 6:28 a.m. and asked for help. The children were not injured.

"We found him {Schnick} wounded in the abdomen," Fraker said. "Laying in the hallway was Kirk Buckner. In the bedroom, Julie was shot dead."

Authorities said Schnick and Buckner had fought, but it is unclear exactly what happened. Two shots were fired, and a steak knife was used, Fraker said.

Buckner, described by authorities as tall and thin and weighing about 90 pounds, had a stab wound in the chest and a bullet wound in the neck. His uncle also had leg and neck wounds.

Police said Schnick, delirious, struggled with them when they arrived and had not made a statement by nightfall. He was listed in fair condition at a Springfield hospital.

Fraker said Schnick apparently had been milking cows when he heard a shot at the house and went there, encountering his nephew. "He {Schnick} came in the kitchen, and it appears at that point grabbed a steak knife from above the table. We know he used violence," the sheriff said.

A six-shot, .22-cal. pistol, described by Fraker as a "Saturday night special," was found in the youth's right hand. The gun, purchased in 1981, was registered to Jan Buckner, he said.

People in Elkland, whose population is 200, and the nearby county seat of Marshfield, expressed bafflement at what might have triggered today's events.

Adamson said he has attended the Elkland Christian Church with the Buckners for years. "It hurts to walk into a house and see kids you've watched grow up dead," he said. He speculated that news reports of recent killings in two nearby towns may have had something to do with the shootings here.

Evelyn Hampton, a neighbor, told United Press International that Kirk "took care of his little brothers. They got along real good."

Another neighbor, Tom Petersen, said, "The family just didn't have any money. You get that age, and things eat at you."

Audie DeHart, principal of Marshfield Junior High, where Kirk Buckner was a student last year, described him as "quiet" and "cooperative." Buckner started high school three weeks ago.

"Nothing in his school background would indicate this type of violence . . . . He didn't have a violent temper. He didn't have a tendency to want to hurt people with his fists or words," DeHart told The Associated Press.

Fraker said the only unusual aspect of Kirk Buckner's background was a near-fatal accident in 1985. He said Buckner was saved from drowning by a friend while swimming in a pond.

Squalor and poverty characterize the Buckner farm. White paint is peeling from the small stucco and clapboard farm house, and several boards on the front porch have rotted away. The yard is unmowed and littered with rags, broken bottles, old rubber boots and trash.

A cattle feeding shed and barn are in only slightly better repair. About 30 dairy cows and six pigs were there today.

The killings brought to 10 the number of violent deaths nearby in less than two weeks. Nine days ago, three area residents were killed by a hitchhiker, later identified as Howard Franklin Stewart, who killed himself Tuesday in Corsicana, Tex., where he had killed three more people.