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New details are being revealed about the final moments of Iowa parents and their young daughter, who were killed earlier this month while camping at a state park.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) announced Thursday how each of the Cedar Falls family members were killed on July 22 while camping at Maquoketa Caves State Park.
A medical examiner determined that Tyler Schmidt, 42, died from a combination of multiple sharp force injuries and a gunshot wound. His wife Sarah, also 42, was killed from “multiple sharp force injuries.”
Their 6-year-old daughter Lula Schmidt had been strangled and shot to death. The couple’s 9-year-old son Arlo managed to escape the gunman and flee to safety.
Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green has said previously that Arlo is now “safe,” calling the deaths of the other family members a “horrible tragedy.”
Investigators believe the family was killed by 23-year-old Anthony Sherwin, of LaVista, Nebraska, who was camping nearby with his family and had no known connection the Schmidt family.
Anthony was found dead in a wooded area of the park from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the killings.
“The investigation into the events surrounding the homicides is ongoing. However, the known facts and circumstances, and all evidence collected to this point, substantiate Sherwin was the perpetrator of the homicides and acted alone,” Mitch Mortvedt, the assistant director of DCI wrote in the release.
Anthony Sherwin’s mother, Cecilia Sherwin, challenged that account in comments to The Omaha World Herald, saying that their family is refusing “to believe the news.”
According to her, the family had been camping near the Schmidt’s when she heard screaming and gunshots just before 6:30 a.m. and Arlo ran up screaming that someone dressed in all black had killed his family.
She noted that Anthony—who had legally brought a gun to the campsite—was wearing green, not black, and believes he may have grabbed his weapon in an effort to protect himself.
“We think (Anthony) might have sensed trouble and grabbed the gun for safety,” she told the paper. “We refuse to believe the news. We are deeply saddened as he had so much to live for and gave us no indication that anything was wrong.”
She added in another email to the paper that Sherwin gave his family “no warning that he was planning anything of this sort” and said the family has been fully cooperating with investigators.
“Anthony was not capable of this sort of violence,” she said.
But in comments to the Associated Press, Mortvedt shot down the theory that Anthony had been trying to protect himself.
“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,” he said.
Anthony Sherwin had no prior criminal record and investigators are still trying to piece together an apparent motive in the attack.
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