MARSHFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ Officials on Saturday were exhuming the bodies of family members killed in a shooting spree last month, hoping to shore up their case against an man accused of murder in the seven slayings.

''We do not expect anything of any nature that we do not already know,'' said Webster County Sheriff Eugene Fraker. ''It is simply a matter of substantiating something - the cause of death.''

James E. Schnick, 36, is accused of seven first-degree murder charges in the deaths of his wife Julie, 30, her brother Steve Buckner, 35, Buckner wife's Jeannette, 36, and the Buckner's four children, Kirk, 14, Dennis, 8, Timmy 6, and Michael, 2. The seven, all rural Elkland residents, were shot on the morning of Sept. 25.

Authorities at first believed Kirk Buckner was the killer, and that he had died in a struggle with Schnick. But their suspicions quickly turned to Schnick.

Schnick was charged in Webster County Circuit Court on Oct 6.

An autopsy had been performed on Kirk Buckner, but not on the other victims. Kirk Buckner's body would not be exhumed. All seven were buried Sept. 28.

Investigators did not at first believe autopsies on all the victims were necessary, Fraker said.

But, as officials began putting together a case against Schnick, they decided to have a pathologist study the bodies ''to lessen the chances of some smart attorney getting him off,'' Fraker said.