VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia Beach mom and her two young kids who went missing following a “suspicious” fire on Sunday were found safe in North Carolina Wednesday, family members told CBS North Carolina’s sister station WAVY.UPDATE: Va. mom who ran off to NC with her 2 kids after house fire now charged with arson
Monica Lamping, 29, had been last heard from around midnight on Saturday via text message, according to police. She was reported missing Sunday, shortly after her house on Sullivan Boulevard was damaged in a fire.
Lamping and her children, 7-year-old Kai, and 9-month-old Oria, were nowhere to be found at the time of the fire.
Virginia Beach Police said earlier this week that the family was considered “endangered” due to “suspicious circumstances,” although officers stated there was no information indicating foul play.
Investigators have since determined that they left on their own free will.
Family members said they were thrilled that the three were found safe.
“Absolutely the best possible outcome. When you have something that’s gone on this long…this many days,” said Sheila Bogart, Monica’s mom. “They’re safe.”
The mom and kids were found four days after they were reported missing.
“It was just tormenting, the amount of time. You know, every hour goes by very slowly in that situation,” said Bogart.
The fire that damaged the Sullivan Boulevard home happened in the early morning hours of Sunday. Crews arrived around 3:30 a.m. and found a 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 a 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 last person to see Monica before her disappearance was her best friend, Anne Shell. Shell said she had watched Monica’s children while she was on a lunch date Saturday afternoon.
Police were reportedly looking to identify a man named “Chad.”
Family members expressed fear and despair following the disappearance of Monica and her two children.
Kevin Lamping, Monica’s ex-husband, and his current wife, Moira, said on 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 for them.
Moira said that Kevin left Wednesday afternoon to pick Kai up in North Carolina. She says they are so relieved to hear that everyone is safe.
“We’re just focusing on getting him home. We will deal with details later,” Moira said.
It’s currently unclear why Monica left. The family says they know there is still a lot of information to come out, and it may not be easy. For now, they are focusing on the positives – like Monica being found on her dad’s birthday.
“This is a tremendous gift, the best gift he’s probably ever gotten,” said Bogart.
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. The Virginia Beach Fire Department is continuing to investigate the fire.