A Virginia Beach, Virginia, mom and her two children have been found safe in an apparent "misunderstanding" after they were reported missing this weekend

By Christine Pelisek
January 25, 2017 01:37 PM
Credit: Help Find Monica Lamping/Facebook

A Virginia Beach, Virginia, mother and her two children have been found safe in an apparent “misunderstanding” after they were reported missing following the mom’s date this weekend, PEOPLE confirms.

“They were located approximately 11:30 a.m. [Wednesday],” Virginia Beach Police Department officer Tonya Pierce tells PEOPLE. “Everyone is elated she was found safe.”

Pierce says Monica Lamping, 29, and her two children — 7-year-old Kai and 9-month-old Oria — were found in North Carolina.

“I don’t have the background to say if it was a scheduled trip or a getaway, but they left the residence on their own free will,” Pierce says. “It appears this is a misunderstanding.”

Pierce says the family was “out of communication, and it appears that is the reason why they did not know everybody was looking for them.”

Police previously said they were looking for someone named Chad, but later determined “there was no such person,” Pierce says.

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Police had been looking for Lamping since Sunday, after her family reported her missing. Relatives said they hadn’t heard from Lamping since Saturday afternoon, according to police. She went on a lunch date the same day.

Police called the disappearances suspicious, and a community search and Facebook page were launched.

“Initially it was suspicious, but we had nothing to indicate foul play,” Pierce says.

Adding to the mystery, however, was that a fire broke out at Lamping’s home around 3:30 a.m. Sunday — hours before she and her kids were reported missing. Her dog and cat died in the fire, but no one was home, authorities said.

The investigation into the fire will be handled by the Virginia Beach Fire Department, according to police.

“Initially the Virginia Beach Fire Department’s investigators were looking into the possibility that a space heater may have been linked to the cause of this fire, but that has not been confirmed,” fire department spokesman Art Kohn previously told PEOPLE.