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Maquoketa Caves State Park shooting: 911 call offers glimpse into what happened

The 911 call News 8 obtained via Freedom of Information Act Request includes the voice of a nine-year-old boy explaining what he saw when his family was attacked.

MAQUOKETA, Iowa — A single phone call was made to 911 on the morning of the July 22 triple homicide at Maquoketa Caves State Park.

DCI and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office responded to the state park at approximately 6:23 a.m. following reports of a shooting in the park's campground. Once there, three people were found dead.

The victims were later identified as 42-year-old Tyler Schmidt, 42-year-old Sarah Schmidt and six-year-old Lula Schmidt; a family from Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Schmidt's nine-year-old son, Arlo, escaped and ran for help.

After investigating the campsite, law enforcement found that one camper was unaccounted for. They searched nearby and discovered the body of 23-year-old Nebraska man Anthony Orlando Sherwin just west of the park.  He was named as the suspect in the triple homicide.

News 8 obtained a copy of the 911 call made to Jackson County dispatchers through a Freedom of Information Act Request. On the call are the voices of the dispatcher, Arlo and the nearby camper he ran to for help. That camper was Cecilia Sherwin, Anthony Sherwin's mother, who had no idea her son was involved.

The entire 911 call lasts a total of 23 minutes.

At the beginning, Sherwin tries to describe her location to the dispatcher, but struggled to pronounce Maquoketa. Once the dispatcher realized she was talking about the Maquoketa Caves State Park, he asked, "What's going on out there?"

"Shooting, shooting," Sherwin said, adding that she was with a young boy. "He said that his parents were shot and there's blood."

The dispatcher proceeds to ask Sherwin a series of questions about where she is, if she heard the gunshots and how many campers are there. She said she could hear the gunshots and guesses there are around a dozen campers.

The dispatcher puts her on hold to contact law enforcement and a park ranger, whose phone went to voicemail. At one point, Sherwin lost connection during the call before calling back.

Ten minutes into the call recording, the dispatcher gets back on to talk to Sherwin, who tells him they're at the entrance to the campground. He tells her he was able to reach a park ranger and a state police officer nearby.

He then asks to speak to the boy, who identifies himself as Arlo and that he's nine years old. Arlo tells the dispatcher he was camping with his mom, dad and sister.

"So what happened in (the tent)?" the dispatcher asked.

"I woke up and there was someone in black clothes and they had a weapon and my sister was screaming," Arlo said. 

The dispatcher asked where his dad was and Arlo said, "I think they were hurt."

Arlo tells the dispatcher he thinks the man had a "small gun" and he didn't know who he was.

The call ends roughly eight minutes later with the arrival of a park ranger. The dispatcher tells Sherwin troopers are on their way and an ambulance is standing by.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation later revealed Tyler Schmidt was shot and stabbed, Sarah Schmidt was stabbed and Lula Schmidt was shot and strangled. 

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