Parents, 6-year-old girl killed at Iowa state park

Midwest

(NewsNation) — In Iowa, a family camping trip has turned into a deadly nightmare.

A mother, a father and their 6-year-old daughter were found shot to death in their tent Friday morning. Authorities say it appears to be a random attack by a man from Nebraska, who fatally turned the gun on himself.

The Cedar Falls family had gone camping at the Maquoketa Caves State Park campground, roughly 180 miles east of Des Moines. The killings prompted an evacuation of the park and campground.

The victims were identified by the Iowa Department of Public Safety as Tyler Schmidt, 42; his 42-year-old wife, Sarah Schmidt; and their 6-year-old daughter, Lula Schmidt.

Investigators named Anthony Sherwin, 23, as the suspected gunman. They report that he was found dead of what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a wooded area of the park. Information on the kind of firearm used and if Sherwin had a permit was not immediately released. The Des Moines Register reports that he had no criminal history.

Police still do not know what led up to the deadly episode. Relatives of the victims claim Sherwin had no connection to the family.

“We don’t know what led up to this, what precipitated it,” Mitch Mortvedt, with the Iowa Department of Safety, said, adding that, “the investigation has not revealed any early interaction between the Schmidt family and him.”

Sherwin’s mother told the Omaha World-Herald her family is “deeply saddened” and refuses “to believe the news.” She told the news outlet her family was legally traveling with a gun in a secure container and that her son gave them no indication anything was wrong.

In this photo provided by the Iowa Department of Public Safety, suspected gunman Anthony Orlando Sherwin (23) is shown.(Iowa Department of Public Safety via AP)

Cecilia Sherwin told the World-Herald that a boy ran up to their campsite yelling for help and said someone had shot his family.

The Schmidt’s 9-year-old son is the only member of the family to survive. It’s unclear where he was at the time of the attack, but Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green posted on Facebook that 9-year-old Arlo “survived the attack, and is safe.”

A GoFundMe account for Arlo’s future has raised more than $160,000 so far.

Green said the killings are heartbreaking for the community.

“Like many of you just hearing the news, I’m devastated,” Green wrote on Facebook. “I knew Sarah well, and she & her family were regular walkers here in the Sartori Park neighborhood. I was working with her this week on a public library tech presentation for 7/26.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds also issued a statement on the tragedy.

“I’m horrified by the shooting this morning at Maquoketa Caves State Park and devastated by the loss of three innocent lives. As we grieve this unimaginable tragedy, Kevin and I pray for the victims’ family members and the law enforcement officers who responded to the scene.”

Autopsies were expected to be performed over the weekend.

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