A man who camped with his parents in an Iowa park before brutally murdering two parents and their daughter was found to have shot, stabbed and strangled his victims on the morning of July 22, according to autopsies.
Anthony Sherwin, 23, of LaVista, Nebraska, killed couple Tyler and Sarah Schmidt, both 42, and their daughter Lula, age 6, in Maquoketa Caves State Park, but the couple’s young son, 9-year-old Arlo, escaped unharmed from the horrific incident.
Autopsies revealed Tyler was killed by a gunshot wound and “multiple sharp wounds,” while his wife Sarah was killed only by sharp wounds. Their daughter Lula died of a gunshot wound and strangulation.
Sherwin’s mother Cecilia said she was awakened by gunfire and a young boy – Schmidt’s 9-year-old son, Arlo – who told her that a man dressed in black had just killed his family.
Married couple Tyler and Sarah Schmidt, both 42, and their daughter Lula, aged 6, were shot, stabbed and strangled by Anthony Sherwin, 23, while camping in Maquoketa Caves State Park
Sherwin was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a wooded area of the park. Police confirmed they believe Sherwin was the killer
Pictured: An undated photo of Tyler playing with his daughter Lula. Relatives were distraught because they knew they would not see the child grow up
A Schmidt family member reads a statement from the Schmidt family at the Celebration of Life event for Tyler, Sarah, and Lula Schmidt in Cedar Falls, Iowa
The gunman’s mother said her son wore green, not black, and refused to believe he was behind the horrific triple murder attempt. It is unclear whether he used the family coat of arms to kill his victims and himself.
Cecilia told the Omaha World Herald: ‘We think (Anthony) felt trouble and took the gun for safety. We refuse to believe the news. We are deeply saddened because he had so much to live for and gave us no indication that anything was wrong.”
It’s unclear if Arlo was in the same place as his sister and parents when they were murdered, and no further information about how he was spared has come forward.
Sherwin was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound just west of the campgrounds, in a wooded area.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety confirmed Sherwin was the killer, but department officials have not yet publicly disclosed a motivation for the attack.
Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green speaks for the family at the Celebration of Life event. Green said: ‘Please extend a little extra grace to the many friends, neighbors and colleagues of the Schmidts as we try to come to terms with this terrible tragedy’
No motive for the murders has emerged. Sherwin was visiting Iowa from Nebraska. His blank Facebook profile is pictured above
“Without going into details, with everything we’ve learned, we’re confident that everything we’ve reported is how it turned out and that he’s responsible,” deputy director of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Department of Public Safety Mitch said Mortvedt.
Mortvedt added: “The investigation has revealed no early interaction between the Schmidt family and him.”
The La Vista Police Department in Nebraska has released records showing that Sherwin has not been previously arrested, and Cecilia called her son “kind, sensitive, an exceptional student and an ambitious businessman.”
His Facebook page is completely blank, except for a black square that he used as his profile picture.
Sarah’s sister, Jana Morehouse, mourned the loss of her sibling, calling the attack “an arbitrary act of violence.”
Pictured: Sarah and Tyler Schmit. The couple were neighbors of Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green, who urged the community to support their son Arlo, who survived the ordeal.
Officials aren’t sure if Sherwin had any connection to the victims as no evidence has been found so far that the 23-year-old has ever had any contact with the family
“Today my life is ruined,” Morehouse wrote. “My beautiful, smart, funny, curly-haired sister, her husband, and their 6-year-old daughter were victims of a random act of violence while camping as a family in Iowa.
“Their 9-year-old son has survived and has a life full of trauma ahead of him.”
The victims’ families have GoFundMe page to help Arlo and set up an education fund for his future.
She added that it was unthinkable that life would go on without her sister or young niece.
I can’t comprehend that [Sarah] won’t be on the other end of the phone any longer,’ said Morehouse. “I can’t believe I can’t see Lula growing up.”
Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green, a neighbor of the Schmidts, also mourned the tragic death of the family on Friday and urged residents to help support Arlo.
Green, who knew Sarah when she worked at the Cedar Falls Public Library, wrote, “Please extend a little extra grace to the many friends, neighbors and colleagues of the Schmidts as we try to come to terms with this terrible tragedy.”
By Thursday afternoon, the GoFundMe for the Arlo had raised more than $276,000, with a Meal Train fundraising page also raising $850 for the 9-year-old’s food budget.