Authorities searched for clues on Sunday to a shooting of a couple and their young daughter at an Iowa campsite that left their 9-year-old son as the only survivor – an attack a family member said was “completely random”.
The couple and their daughter – identified as Tyler Schmidt, 42, Sarah Schmidt, 42, and Lula Schmidt, 6 – were found dead Friday morning in a tent at the Maquoketa Caves State Park campground at around 180 miles east of Des Moines. Their 9-year-old son Arlo survived, Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green said.
A suspect, Anthony Sherwin, 23, was found dead Friday in a wooded area of the park with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.
“We don’t know what led to this, what precipitated it,” said Mitch Mortvedt, deputy director of the Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Investigations Division. “The investigation revealed no early interaction between the Schmidt family” and the suspect.
Adam Morehouse, Sarah Schmidt’s brother, said the family had no connection to Sherwin and he believed it was a “completely random act”.
Police responded to reports of a shooting at the campsite before 6:30 a.m., Mike Krapfl, special agent in charge of the Iowa Criminal Investigations Division, said in a statement.
Responding officers found the family dead in their tent, Krapfl said.
Authorities searched the campground and found a man missing from another campsite, Mortvedt said, and eventually found the body of a Nebraska man they believe was the shooter.
Sherwin “was known to be armed,” Mortvedt said. Iowa allows licensed individuals to carry firearms virtually anywhere in the state. Officials did not say whether Sherwin had a permit.
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Green, who said he is a neighbor of the Schmidts, posted on Facebook on Friday that the couple’s 9-year-old son, Arlo, “survived the attack and is safe.” The post did not say whether Arlo was in the tent or even at the campsite when the shooting happened.
Morehouse confirmed Arlo was on a camping trip with the family, but said he wasn’t sure where the boy was at the time of the shooting or how it happened.
“He’s with his family and he’s fine, but I haven’t had any interaction with him,” Morehouse said. “As far as I know, he was not physically injured.”
The murder prompted the evacuation of the park and campground, including a children’s summer camp. After the evacuations, Sherwin was the only person missing, Mortvedt said.
Felicia Coe, 35, of Des Moines, was at the campsite Friday morning with her boyfriend and two sons and said they were told to leave by two park rangers dressed in helmets and vests. At the time, Coe said she didn’t know what happened. But she remembers seeing a young boy standing near the paramedics.
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“He was in his pajamas. I vividly remember he had a blue tennis shoe on,” she said. Later, she saw a photo of the Schmidt family online and said she had recognized the boy she had seen as Arlo.
“He’s got this really cute, curly, moppy, strawberry blonde hair that really stands out,” Coe said. “He was wearing these super cute little pajamas, like a cotton t-shirt and matching shorts.”
As of Sunday morning, more than $118,000 had been raised by a GoFundMe page created for Arlo. The page, curated by cousin Beth Shapiro, said: “Arlo is a strong boy surrounded by his family and friends supporting him as best we can.” The page says the fund will help Arlo now and help pay for his future education.
In a statement, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said, “I am horrified by this morning’s shooting at Maquoketa Caves State Park and devastated by the loss of three innocent lives. As we mourn this unimaginable tragedy, Kevin and I pray for the family members of the victims and the law enforcement officers who responded to the scene. We ask Iowans to do the same.
Contributor: The Associated Press