9-year-old boy orphaned after parents, sister gunned down by man who then shot himself

A 9-year-old boy has been left orphaned after a gunman massacred the rest of his parents and sister in a murder-suicide during a family camping trip in Iowa, officials said.

The bodies of Tyler Schmidt, 42; his 42-year-old wife, Sarah Schmidt; and their 6-year-old daughter, Lula Schmidt, were found dead in their tents on Friday morning at the Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground, roughly 180 miles east of Des Moines, according to the The Iowa Department of Public Safety.

The suspected killer, 23-year-old Anthony Sherwin, was found dead Friday in a wooded area of the park from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The motive of the senseless slaying remains unknown, officials said.

“We don’t know what led up to this, what precipitated it,” Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Department of Public Safety’s division of criminal investigation, told The Associated Press.

So far, he said “the investigation has not revealed any early interaction between the Schmidt family and him.”

Tyler, Sarah, Arlo and Lulu Schmidt.
Tyler, Sarah, Arlo and Lulu Schmidt. Arlo, 9, was the only survivor of the tragedy.

Sarah Schmidt’s brother, Adam Morehouse, said he believes the killings were “completely random.”

The surviving 9-year-old boy, Arlo, survived the attack and is safe, Cedar Falls Mayor and neighbor to the Schmidts Rob Green said in a Facebook post on Friday.

Officials could not confirm if Arlo was with his family when they were killed.

“He is with family and he is OK, but I have not had any interaction with him,” Morehouse said Saturday. “As far as I know, he was uninjured physically.”

Emergency personnel block an entrance to the Maquoketa Caves State Park as police investigate a shooting, Friday, July 22, 2022, in Maquoketa, Iowa. Police responded to reports of the shooting at the park's campground before 6:30 a.m., Mike Krapfl, special agent in charge of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said in a statement. ( (Dave Kettering/Telegraph Herald via AP)
Emergency personnel block an entrance to the Maquoketa Caves State Park, as police investigate the shooting on July 22, 2022, in Maquoketa.

Law enforcement responded to reports of the shooting at the campground before 6:30 a.m. Friday, Iowa officials said. The park was immediately evacuated, and all campers were accounted for except for Sherwin.

Sherwin, a La Vista, Nebraska native, was found dead in the woods by law enforcement officers in an aircraft. La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten told the Des Moines Register he has no criminal history.

Felicia Coe, 35, of Des Moines was camping with her boyfriend and his two sons when they were approached by officers in tactical gear who told them to evacuate.

Autopsies on Sherwin and the victims were scheduled to be performed over the weekend, Mortvedt said, and more information would likely be released based on those findings.
Autopsies on Sherwin and the victims were scheduled to be performed over the weekend.

Coe was not sure exactly what had happened, but remembered seeing a young boy in his pajamas with paramedics. When she later saw a picture of the Schmidt family she recognized the boy as Arlo.

“He was in these super cute little pajamas, like a cotton T-shirt and shorts that matched,” she told the AP.

“He was just standing there. He wasn’t crying. He wasn’t distraught. But he also wasn’t being comforted. He was just standing there by himself.”

Authorities enter a mobile command center at the entrance to Maquoketa Caves State Park on July 22, 2022, in Maquoketa.
Authorities enter a mobile command center at the entrance to Maquoketa Caves State Park on July 22, 2022, in Maquoketa.

Morehouse said that Tyler and Sarah Schmidt had previously lived in Lawrence, Kansas, where Sarah worked at the University of Kansas. They moved to Cedar Falls in 2018 where they were active members in the community.. Tyler was an IT software engineer and Sarah worked in the Cedar Falls library.

“The best way to describe all four of them was the quintessential Midwestern family. They gave everybody everything they possibly could. They loved family … They enjoyed the outdoors, enjoyed the hiking — and this is just a question mark of ‘Why that campground and that campsite on that night?’”

With Post wires

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