Family calls victims in Maquoketa Caves shooting the 'quintessential Midwestern family of four'; no motive established yet

Staff and wire reports

The Schmidts from Cedar Falls were "the quintessential Midwestern family of four that everyone looked up to," according to Adam Morehouse, one of Sarah Schmidt's three siblings. 

Morehouse shared memories of his big sister and her family on Sunday, two days after Sarah, her husband Tyler Schmidt and their 6-year-old daughter, Lula, were shot and killed while camping at Maquoketa Caves State Park.

The Schmidts' 9-year-old son, Arlo, survived the shooting without injury. A GoFundMe page set up to help him had raised more than $205,000 by Monday afternoon and a separate meal train to help the victims' family as they gather to mourn had nearly 150 participants and raised more than $4,000 by Monday morning.

According to law enforcement officials, the bodies of Tyler, Sarah and Lula Schmidt were found in a tent at the state park Friday morning. They had been shot. 

Some distance away, but still in the park, authorities found the body of Anthony Orlando Sherwin, 23, who had apparently died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities said Sherwin, who lived in the Omaha suburb of La Vista, Nebraska, is presumed to be the person who shot and killed the Schmidts.

More:What we know about the Maquoketa Caves State Park shooting in Iowa

Schmidt family loved the outdoors

Tyler Schmidt grew up in the Cedar Falls area, where his parents still live, according to the Associated Press. Sarah Schmidt was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and spent much of her childhood living near St. Louis, Morehouse said.

They both attended Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, then lived in Lawrence, Kansas, where Sarah Schmidt worked at the University of Kansas. Tyler Schmidt was an IT software engineer who for 18 years worked for TreviPay, an Overland Park, Kansas-based business to business payments and invoicing firm.

The company released a statement Monday after donating $5,000 to Arlo's GoFundMe. 

"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 statement read. "Tyler was a joy to work with, a consummate professional, a mentor to his peers and his teammates, and partner to our clients. We will miss him deeply and our sincere condolences go out to his family and his surviving son Arlo."

At one point, Morehouse said, Sarah Schmidt worked on a project about monarch butterflies, and the couple were huge Kansas Jayhawks fans.

In 2018, the Schmidts moved to Cedar Falls, where Sarah Schmidt worked for the library, and they had been active in the community ever since, Morehouse said.

Through her service at the library, Morehouse said his sister met many people and "affected so many lives with a smile on her face," in and out of the library.

Morehouse said the Schmidts loved the outdoors, and just got four pairs of snowshoes for Christmas.

“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?’" Morehouse said.

Gunman's motive remains a mystery

Investigators have uncovered little to establish a motive in the shooting, noting they have not turned up any connection between Sherwin, the presumed shooter, and the Schmidts.

Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said investigators have spoken to the boy, but declined to reveal what the child said. 

"At this time, there's been nothing discovered as far as anything that precipitated the attack" at the campground, Mortvedt said.

Sherwin's parents had suggested that he might have heard the shots and grabbed a firearm in the family's vehicle for self-protection, but Mortvedt discounted that theory.

"Without getting into the fine details of it, with everything that we have learned, we are confident that everything we have reported is how it played out and that he is responsible," Mortvedt said. 

Autopsies on the Schmidts and Sherwin began Sunday and were continuing on Monday, Mortvedt said.

The La Vista Police Department in Nebraska released records Monday showing that it had only one prior contact with Sherwin, when he walked into a police station in July 2017 to report someone had tried to use his insurance to get dental work done in Oklahoma. Sherwin later called police to inform them his insurance company had mistakenly sent him someone else's bill.

Sherwin's mother, Cecilia Sherwin, in a statement emailed to The Associated Press described her son as kind, sensitive, an exceptional student and an aspiring businessman.

"We just arrived home and are trying to absorb the loss of our son and arriving home without him which is unfathomable," she said. "I didn't think we had any tears left, but we still find ourselves breaking down and care deeply for the little boy and the loss of his family."