A couple who used to live in Lawrence and their 6-year-old daughter were killed by a gunman while on a family vacation at an Iowa state park Friday.
Tyler and Sarah Schmidt and their daughter, Lula, were found dead in their tent early Friday morning at Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground.
The Schmidts, who most recently lived in Cedar Falls, Iowa, are survived by their son, Arlo, 9. Investigators have not said whether Arlo was present in the tent when the family members were found.
The alleged gunman, 23-year-old Anthony Sherwin, was found dead in the park from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Tyler and Sarah, both 42, lived in Lawrence from 2002 to 2018. Sarah worked at Monarch Watch for many years, and then was a graduate student in KU’s biology department.
Sarah’s sister, Jana Morehouse, said Lawrence was an important part of Sarah and Tyler’s lives.
“They were Jayhawks through and through, and Sarah, especially, was a huge basketball fan,” Morehouse said. “I am incredibly happy this year was one for the books that we all celebrated as a family.”
Tyler attended Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, then worked at TreviPay in Overland Park as a principal engineer until 2015, according to his Linkedin profile.
People who knew the Schmidts lamented their loss in social media posts.
“Sarah was the nicest person and so helpful and supportive,” Sarah Ashcraft, of Lawrence, wrote on Facebook. “We met at a new mom’s group over 8 years ago in Lawrence. She moved and so did I, but we still had our mom’s FB group and would keep in touch. I’m very shocked, confused and heartbroken.”
Andrea Chao Allen met Sarah through a parent-support group at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in 2013 when their sons were born.
“Sarah was a friend of mine,” Chao Allen wrote on Facebook. “She was kind, so smart and just an amazing woman. She was part of my mama tribe. She will be missed by so many.”
According to authorities in Iowa, another camper at the state park called 911 at 6:23 a.m. Friday after hearing gunfire. Iowa State Patrol officers found Tyler, Sarah and Lula dead in their tent and evacuated the campground.
“As law enforcement got there, and accounted for everyone, they discovered (Sherwin) was the only one unaccounted for,” Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the division of criminal investigation for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, said in an interview.
“He was known to have a firearm. That’s when we started to put it out to the public to stay away from the park. … Ultimately he was discovered with what looked like a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
Family members have started a GoFundMe for 9-year-old Arlo.
Mortvedt called the tragedy shocking and senseless.
“You go to these places because of the peace and serenity and beauty and it certainly is gorgeous over there, and you certainly don’t expect something like this to happen,” he said.
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Chansi Long (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from July 2022 through August 2023. Read more of her work for the Times here.