St. Paul police are investigating after a 61-year-old grandmother was found shot dead in the backyard of an East Side home.

Officers were called to the 1100 block of Bush Avenue around 8:45 p.m. Wednesday after a woman dialed 911 to say her mother had been shot in the head.

"Caller found her mother, thinks she is dead," an emergency dispatcher relayed to officers on radio traffic. "Unknown where the suspect is."

Officers found the older woman unresponsive in the backyard. She could not be revived.

Police later identified her as Teresa A. Bearribs, formerly known as Teresa Janis. Relatives said her adult daughter lives in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood home, where Bearribs was staying to help care for her granddaughters, ages 3, 4 and 5. The children were at the home at the time of the shooting, family said, but it's unclear what they may have seen or heard. Bearribs is originally from South Dakota.

"She was just an innocent victim," said her son, Tim Bearribs, who believes the slaying was gang-related. "Our lives are forever changed today."

Her family set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for funeral expenses. "She was friendly to all people," the posting said. "She will be dearly missed."

A family friend sent to gather items from the house on Thursday afternoon said the children are now safe and reunited with their mother. "They understand their grandma is in heaven," Liz Rakstab said while hauling bundles of clothes to her truck. "That pieces of us live in the stars."

Bearribs' death marked the 21st homicide of the year in the capital city — and the second of the week.

No arrests have been made in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 651-266-5650.

Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648