DRESDEN, Tenn. (AP) _ Two small girls were shot to death as they sat snacking in front of a television set in their rural home, and the bodies of their parents were found nearby, officials say.

''We're handling the investigation as a homicide,'' Sheriff Mike Wilson said Sunday. ''But it's possible it was a homicide-suicide. We just haven't had enough time to talk to enough witnesses....

''I'd be afraid to say what happened right now,'' the sheriff said. ''It's hard to believe a husband and father could do something like this, but it's hard to believe anybody could do it.

''I don't believe we'll ever know why it happened,'' he added.

The bodies of Tony Horn, 28, his wife, Angela Dawn Horn, 25, and their daughters, Leslie Beth, 4, and Jennifer Dawn, 23 months, were found Sunday by Mrs. Horn's grandparents, who went to the house after they were unable to reach the Horns by telephone, Wilson said.

Investigator Ron Powers said the pajama-clad children died as they sat in front of the television in the living room.

''The two children were eating these chip-type french fries'' when they were killed, Powers said. ''It looked like they were playing a game and watching TV.''

Both children died of shotgun blasts in the back of the neck, Wilson said.

Wilson said it appeared Mrs. Horn, who also was dressed for bed, had struggled with her killer before she died. She was shot twice in the leg and head.

Horn's body was beside his wife's, Powers said. He had been shot once in the head. A shotgun lay across his wife's legs.

Horn, a carpenter, had lived in the Garrett Lake community with his family for about three years. Both he and his wife have relatives in the area.