VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A mother and her two children, who were reported missing shortly after the family’s house caught fire, have been found safe, police said.
Police said they left on their own free will.
Monica Lamping, 29, was last heard from around midnight on Saturday via text message, according to police. Early Sunday morning, flames severely damaged her home on Sullivan Boulevard. She and her children, 7-year-old Kai, and 9-month-old Oria, were nowhere to be found.
Virginia Beach Police had considered the family to be “endangered” due to “suspicious circumstances,” although officers stated there is no information indicating foul play.
Kevin Lamping, Monica’s ex-husband, and his current wife, Moira, told 10 On Your Side Tuesday that they were not too concerned when they first heard what was going on, thinking that perhaps Monica’s phone had died. But when Monica didn’t contact her parents after the fire, and when Kai didn’t show up to school on Monday, that’s when worry turned into fear.
“I have every reason to believe that she would do whatever it would take to get him to school on time,” said Kevin Lamping.
Monica’s mother, Sheila Bogart, said Monday that the family filed a missing person report Sunday, after they were unable to locate her or reach her by phone.
When fire crews arrived around 3:30 a.m. they found fire showing through the roof, according to Battalion Chief Rob Darling, with Virginia Beach Fire Department. The fire was marked under control around 4 a.m.
One cat and one dog did not survive the fire.
A second woman, who lived with Monica, was not there at the time. A firefighter suffered a minor injury, but did not require treatment.
No one was home, and Monica’s 2002 dark green Jeep Cherokee was also missing. The license plate number is XPU-6357.
Family members told 10 On Your Side Tuesday that the Jeep was seen around 2 a.m. Sunday at the Downtown Tunnel heading west. Police confirmed that the Jeep was caught on camera traveling through the tunnel.
The last person to see Monica was her best friend, Anne Shell. Shell told 10 On Your Side she had watched her children while she was on a lunch date Saturday afternoon.
Police are reportedly looking to identify a man named “Chad.”
“I’m really worried for her and her babies,” said Shell. “I feel helpless and I don’t know what to do. I just don’t understand what’s happening.”
“You look at the timing of everything and it’s just very suspicious,” said Kevin Lamping.
The family had been distributing pictures and information about Monica and her children on social media.
“She didn’t just drop off the map like that,” Bogart said. Every family member who 10 On Your Side has spoken to has said the same thing — it is unlike Monica to leave like this.
Right now, the exact cause of the fire is unknown. Investigators with the fire department have stated from the start that an electrical space heater may be linked to the cause, but it’s too early to definitively tell.
This situation is being investigated by both police and fire.
Meantime, family members are clinging to hope that the children are with their mother, and are safe. A Facebook page called “Help Find Monica Lamping” has been created.
Kevin Lamping said Tuesday, “With every hour that passes, that feeling of helplessness certainly grows, and a feeling of despair is also there.”
“It’s like a nightmare where you don’t wake up,” said Bogart.
Shell said, “I hope that she’s safe and just know that we love her. I just want her to come home safe.”
“It’s a missing piece of the family without [Kai] here. We just want to know that he’s safe,” said Moira Lamping.