Missing Camping Family Surrenders to Police
It was a long, strange journey for a missing Nebraska couple who surrendered with their children Monday (April 6) after a two-week camping trip into the Black Hills and leading police on a massive search in two states.
Police say Matt and Rowena Schade are being held in Nebraska on probation-related offenses as police in South Dakota try to determine whether they were involved in a string of burglaries that occurred near where the family stayed for about two weeks.
"We are waiting for reports from (Nebraska police) before we make charges," Pennington County (S.D.) Sheriff's Office Maj. Brian Mueller told ABCNews.com today (April 7). "They're definitely people of interest in these burglaries."
The Schades are also likely to face charges in connection with the theft of an area Fire Department vehicle police believe they used to leave South Dakota, Mueller said.
Police in Knox County, Neb., from where the family disappeared March 20 and where they surrendered Monday, said in a statement released today that Rowena Schade and her children left willingly with Matthew Schade.
"The family told officers that they left because they were scared by social services," the statement read.
The family, using $1,000 worth of survival-style camping gear, disappeared into the wildnerness of South Dakota's Black Hills National Park, where Matt Schade had taken survival camping trips with his church and where the couple had honeymooned about three years ago.
"They were in good shape and there is no evidence that the children had been harmed in any way," the statement read. "The children were happy and talked about their camping trip and were more worried about having to leave their baked potatoes in camp than anything else."
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will interview the children, an 8-year-old and a boy of 11 or 12, before deciding where to place them, according to the police statement.
Police in Knox County said the parents kept up the children's home-schooling lessons while they lived in the woods, surviving two major snowstorms that dumped up to a foot of snow each time.
Mueller said the family is believed to have made their way back to Nebraska in a stolen fire truck used to fight brush fires. The truck, later found in Antelope County, Neb., about 35 miles away from Knox County, was stolen from the Silver City Volunteer Fire Department, which had a storage building near where the Schades were believed to have camped out.
Rowena Schade is being held on a $10,000 bond. The bond for Matt Schade has not yet been set. The couple were both on probation for a 2006 burglary.
In the statement, the Knox County Sheriff's Office said there are no plans to charge the Schades for the cost of the search, which is ample, figuring in the cost of overtime and the $500-an-hour helicopter searches