In an unfortunate turn of events, a 9-year-old boy lost his parents and little sister while camping in a state park in Iowa. What was supposed to be a fun day for the little boy became a nightmare that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
When people decide to go out with their families to enjoy the holidays, they always expect to return home with memories they will cherish forever. No one thinks about getting in an accident or losing their life in a shooting incident.
The boy in today's story lost three family members on the same day, at the same spot. He was an eye-witness to the unfortunate incident that changed his life. His innocent mind would never forget how his younger sister and parents died that morning.
People in Maquoketa Caves State Park. | Source: flickr.com/Phil Roeder
THE LIFE-CHANGING CAMPING PLAN
42-year-old Tyler and Sarah Schmidt, their 6-year-old daughter Lula, and their 9-year-old son Arlo looked forward to having a lovely time camping at Maquoketa Caves State Park campground in Iowa. Little did they know that only one of the four family members would return home alive.
On July 22, 2022, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office received news about three dead bodies at a nearby campground. When the officers reached the state park, they discovered the bodies of Sarah and Tyler, along with their daughter Lula. Fortunately, Arlo was safe.
Upon taking a closer look, the officers found out that the Schmidts had been shot. After searching the area for a while, they discovered another deceased body of a man.
THE MAYOR'S STATEMENT
Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green took to Facebook to confirm the triple-homicide incident. On his Facebook page, he shared that he knew Sarah because she was an employee at the Cedar Falls Public Library, and he was working with her on a presentation. He said:
"Like many of you just hearing the news, I'm devastated. I knew Sarah well, and she & her family were regular walkers here in the Sartori Park neighborhood."
After confirming that Arlo was unharmed, Green asked people to be kind towards the family, friends, and coworkers of the Schmidts since it was hard for them to process what had happened. He also added that the Cedar Falls library would be closed the next day "for the sake of the staff who loved and worked with Sarah."
Near the crime scene, officers found the body of a 23-year-old man who had shot himself. They identified the man as Anthony Orlando Sherwin and suspected he had killed three members of the Cedar Falls family of four.
In no time, more than a thousand people had donated through the website to support Arlo.
Iowa Department of Public Safety released a statement on their website after identifying the suspect, claiming "there is no danger to the public." They also added that the Maquoketa Caves State Park is an "active crime scene" and has been closed to the general public.
THE BOY WHO LOST EVERYTHING
What was an unfortunate shooting incident for most people was something that turned 9-year-old Arlo's life upside down. He lost everything the morning he saw his parents and little sister die in front of him.
Arlo was surrounded by friends and family who supported him during this challenging time. They also set up a GoFundMe page so people could help him financially. Green shared the link to the fundraiser on his Facebook page the day after the incident and wrote:
"Neighbors, many of you have already asked how to contribute and show your support to the Schmidts during this awful time -- a GoFundMe has just been launched, and I'm posting it just as a PSA."
"We will use your generous donations to help Arlo now and to build some savings for his future education," said Sarah and Tyler's siblings and cousin, who had set up the GoFundMe page for little Arlo.
In no time, more than 4.5K people had donated through the website to support Arlo. They felt devastated learning how the little boy had lost his family.
The initial goal of the fundraiser was to collect $100,000, but the donations have surpassed $236,000 as people showed their love and support for Arlo.
THE FAMILY OF FOUR
After Tyler and Sarah's tragic death, Sarah's brother, Adam Morehouse, shared some insights about "the quintessential Midwestern family of four that everyone looked up to."
According to Morehouse, Tyler was born and raised in Cedar Falls, while Sarah grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. The two crossed paths while studying at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. Later, they moved to Lawrence, Kansas, for work.
Sarah worked at the University of Kansas, while Tyler worked at TreviPay as an IT Software Engineer for about 18 years. The company later released a statement after learning about the tragic shooting incident:
"We were devastated to learn of the tragic and senseless death of our beloved colleague, Tyler Schmidt, his wife, Sarah, and 6-year-old daughter, Lula."
THE HEARTWRENCHING QUESTION
The family of four moved to Cedar Hills in 2018, where they actively engaged in community service. Sarah worked at the library, where she met many people and impacted their lives positively. With a heavy heart, Morehouse said:
"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?'"
As the police tried to understand why Sherwin targetted the Schmidts, they couldn't find out much. They also spoke to his parents, who were having a hard time processing the death of their beloved child.
THE SUSPECT'S FAMILY
Sherwin's mother described him as a good student and a kind person who wanted to become a businessman. It was hard for her to believe that her young boy had killed three people, including a little girl. She said:
"We just arrived home and are trying to absorb the loss of our son and arriving home without him, which is unfathomable."
Meanwhile, Green updated people on his Facebook page about the "Celebration of Life" dedicated to Sarah, Tyler, and Lula that would be held on August 2, 2022, at Overman Park. He said he would share the exact time and details later and expected people to attend to show their support for the deceased family.
THE PRIVATE FUNERAL
Green welcomed the media to the event so other people could attend the event virtually. He asked people to come along with their neighbors and updated them about the private funeral proceedings. He said:
"To respect their privacy, I won't be sharing any details about that, but rest assured that the city will take the best care of them that we possibly can."
The tragic story of the Schmidt family has left people with a heavy heart. Our thoughts and prayers are with little Arlo and the Schmidts' loved ones as they deal with the aftermath of this unimaginable tragedy.
Click here to read another story about a mother who learned her son planned to kill school students and called the police on him.
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