Parents, 6-year-old girl fatally shot in tent in Iowa Park

A 9-year-old boy camping with his parents and 6-year-old sister at an Iowa state park survived a shooting that killed the rest of his family.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety identified the victims as Tyler Schmidt, 42; his 42-year-old wife Sarah Schmidt; and her 6-year-old daughter, Lula Schmidt, all of Cedar Falls, Iowa. Their bodies were found in their tent early Friday at the Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground, about 180 miles east of Des Moines.

Authorities said the suspected gunman, 23-year-old Anthony Sherwin, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a wooded area of ​​the park on Friday.

Mitch Mortvedt, deputy director of the Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Investigations Branch, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the motive for the attack was still unknown.

“We don’t know what caused what triggered it,” he said, adding that “the investigation to date has not revealed any early interaction between the Schmidt family and him.”

Adam Morehouse, Sarah Schmidt’s brother, said the family had no connection to Sherwin and he believed it was a “completely indiscriminate act.”

Cedar Falls Mayor Rob 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 didn’t say if Arlo was at the tent or even the campsite when the shooting took place, and the mayor told the AP he didn’t have those details.

Morehouse confirmed Arlo was on the family’s camping trip, but said he didn’t know exactly where the boy was at the time of the shooting or had details of how it was developing.

“He’s with his family and doing well, but I haven’t had any interaction with him,” Morehouse said Saturday. “As far as I know, he was not physically injured.”

As of Saturday night, more than $75,000 has been raised in a GoFundMe page built for Arlo. The page, which was organized by a cousin, Beth Shapiro, said, “Arlo is a strong boy surrounded by family and friends who support him as best they can.” The page says the fund is now helping Arlo and his will fund future education.

The killings led to the evacuation of the park and campground, including a children’s summer camp. After the evacuations, Sherwin was the only person missing, Mortvedt said.

He said that as the investigation progressed, authorities learned that Sherwin was armed, and “of course that raised our awareness.” Iowa permits those with permits to carry firearms virtually anywhere in the state. Officials did not say whether Sherwin had a permit and provided no information about the firearm used to kill the Schmidts.

The Des Moines Register reported that Sherwin was from La Vista, Nebraska. La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten told the newspaper that Sherwin lives with his parents in an apartment complex and has no criminal history.

Felicia Coe, 35, of Des Moines, was at the campsite Friday morning with her boyfriend and their two sons, ages 11 and 16. She said the 16-year-old went out early to go for a run and that she was speaking to someone in the park around 6:30 a.m. when two park rangers wearing helmets, vests and what appeared to be automatic rifles asked her to enter the park to leave the campsite.

More law enforcement and an ambulance showed up as Coe went looking for her boyfriend’s teenage son.

At the time, Coe didn’t know what had happened. But she remembers seeing a little boy near the paramedics.

“He was in his pajamas. I remember clearly that he had a blue tennis shoe,” she said. She later saw a picture of the Schmidt family online and said she recognized the boy she saw as Arlo.

“He has this really cute, limp-curly, moppy, strawberry-blonde hair that’s really distinguishable,” Coe said. “He was wearing these super cute little pajamas, like a cotton t-shirt and shorts that matched. … He just stood there. He didn’t cry. He wasn’t upset. But he was not comforted either. He just stood there alone.”

She said the campers were given little information about what happened and she started putting it all together on the drive home.

“It’s hard to be so thankful it wasn’t your family when you know another family is being torn apart right now — multiple families,” she said.

Cedar Falls Mayor Green said Sarah Schmidt works at the city’s public library, which was closed Saturday.

“Like many of you listening to the news right now, I am devastated,” Green wrote on Facebook. “I knew Sarah well, and she and her family regularly walked here in the Sartori Park neighborhood. I worked with her this week on a technical presentation for a public library for July 26th.”

Morehouse said Tyler Schmidt’s parents live in the Cedar Falls area and Sarah Schmidt’s family members are scattered across the country but headed to Iowa. He said Tyler and Sarah lived in Lawrence, Kansas for a time, where Sarah worked at the University of Kansas. Tyler was an IT software engineer. At one point, he said, Sarah was working on a project about monarch butterflies, and the couple were big fans of the Kansas Jayhawks.

In 2018, the Schmidts moved to Cedar Falls and have been active in the community ever since, Morehouse said. He said they love the outdoors and just got four pairs of snowshoes for Christmas.

“The best way to describe all four was the quintessential Midwestern family. They gave everyone everything they could. They loved family… They enjoyed the great outdoors, enjoyed the hiking – and that’s just a question mark of ‘Why this campground and this campground that night?’”


Forliti reported from Minneapolis.


In an earlier version of this article, Lula Schmidt’s first name was misspelled.

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