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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
An assailant who attacked three members of a Cedar Falls family who were camping last month at Maquoketa Caves State Park shot and stabbed the father, stabbed the mother and shot and strangled their 6-year-old daughter, state autopsy results revealed Thursday.
The state medical examiner, who for the first time disclosed that family members had been stabbed or strangled, ruled the deaths were homicides. The Iowa Department of Public Safety also confirmed their attacker was Anthony Sherwin, 23, of LaVista, Neb., who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the family was attacked early July 22 in their tent. Sherwin was at the park camping with his parents at the time.
Killed were Tyler Schmidt and Sarah Schmidt, both 42, and their daughter, Lula. Their son, Arlo, 9, survived the attack without physical injury but investigators have not said where in the park he was when the attack inside the tent occurred.
Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the department’s Division of Criminal Investigation, told The Gazette on Thursday he would “state broadly” that an attack and a struggle took place.
“As far as what we think happened, Anthony Sherwin entered the Schmidt family’s tent and there was an immediate attack and struggle that resulted in the three members of the Schmidt family dying as a result of the attack,” he said.
The attack still is under investigation and so far a motive has not been publicly released. Mortvedt told the Associated Press that investigators "have indications as to what the motive was," but would not release the information.
“However, the known facts and circumstances, and all evidence collected to this point, substantiate Sherwin was the perpetrator of the homicides and acted alone,” according to a department news release. Sherwin had no criminal history before this attack.
Sherwin’s mother, Cecilia Sherwin, said in an email to the Associated Press that her family had recently made the decision to become gun owners only after a number of recent crimes and disturbances while camping previously.
Mortvedt has said that investigators have spoken to the boy who was spared, but he declined to provide what information they received, according to an AP report last week.
A memorial to celebrate the lives of the Schmidts was held Tuesday in their hometown of Cedar Falls, drawing about 200 people. A GoFundMe page on social media formed by a relative to help Arlo had raised nearly $277,000 by Thursday afternoon.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.