Thursday 8AM Update: Missing Cousins' Family Feels Police Are Scrutinizing Them

KCRG/Gazette/Courier Staff Reports

Misty and Dan Morrissey speak to the media near Meyers Lake where their daughter Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, disappeared last Friday, Tuesday, July 17, 2012, in Evansdale, Iowa. The girls' bikes were found Friday afternoon near a bike trail at the edge of the lake. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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By Ellen Kurt

EVANSDALE, Iowa - The family of two girls missing from Evansdale hope investigators can continue to focus on finding the cousins and not worry too much about some family members' past.

"There is history in our family, but it is not one we are scared of. It is one we have dealt with in the past and we've come past it as a family," Misty Morrissey said Wednesday.

Misty's daughter Lyric Cook-Morrissey and niece Elizabeth Collins, 8, have been missing since July 13.

Misty said the family's past has nothing to do "with the disappearance of our children."

"Look into it all you want. Scrutinize it all you want and then let's get back to what the real focus is which is our girls. Because ultimately no matter how far you look into us we are completely open. It's not going to lead anywhere," she said.

The day before Daniel Morrissey's daughter disappeared, the court set a September date for him in connection with drug charges that allege police found items used to make meth in his home in December.

Morrissey also has a pending domestic assault charge stemming from an August incident where he allegedly assaulted Misty Morrissey.

One of his alleged accomplices in the drug case had a pretrial conference the day of the disappearance, and another co-defendant was scheduled to plea the following Monday.

Misty Cook pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute meth in 2003. She is charged under her maiden of Cook.

Black Hawk County Sheriff's Capt. Rick Abben said both families are cooperating with the investigation. Wylma Cook, the girls' grandmother, said officials "interrogated" Dan Morrissey, Lyric's father, Tuesday.

"They screamed and yelled at him" and accused him of killing the kids, Cook said. "And he didn't. That is their way of going about things."

Cook said Dan was at his mother's house with his and Misty's 16-year-old son Friday when the girls disappeared.

"Misty called him. He called his mom off work. She went to the house, picked him up and came straight out," Cook said.

Dan Morrissey declined requests for interviews Wednesday.

Still searching

Cook said officials also took a computer from her home and searched her attic Wednesday. Abben would not confirm the search or seizure, but said no search warrants had been issued.

Tammy Brousseau, the missing girls' aunt, said she thinks if someone wanted retaliation they would have targeted Dan.

"The children weren't exposed to those people. They were pretty much, for the most part, kept away from there and Misty would kick Dan out when she suspected (drug) usage," Brousseau said.

Cook also expressed some frustration with the Evansdale Police Department's continued focus on the Meyers Lake, from the first hours through the end of day six.

"They insisted they were at the lake. In my heart I knew they weren't," Cook said.

Abben said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Federal Bureau of Investigation were both notified Friday night and arrived Saturday.

Though Abben could offer little new information about the progress of the search during the daily press briefing he did say the water at Meyers Lake was receding slower than originally anticipated.

"Now the engineers ... are saying hopefully by Friday it will be drained," he said. "We've got a pump assisting it and so it's going just as quick as we can get it done."

He said officials have been manning the overflow tube to ensure no evidence flows through. He could not answer why crews were checking the drain on the northwest corner of the lake earlier in the day.

Law enforcement also requested that all residential and commercial trash in the city of Evansdale was set aside in the Black Hawk County landfill, according to Black Hawk Waste Disposal. Crews searched through the piles earlier this week.

Next steps

Abben didn't have any answers when asked about where the investigation would go if nothing is found in the lake. The only thing he did say was that law enforcement officials will continue to work the case.

"We are not scaling back. They have assured me that we are not going to do that," Abben said. "It is too early to do that. As long as the tips keep coming in law enforcement will be here with boots on the ground to go investigate those."

He also said he is not giving up hope.

"I have three kids of my own and you don't want to give up hope," he said. "I know the parents are not giving up hope."

Brousseau said she hasn't given up either, but it gets harder every day.

"It's awful to climb into your bed and you are comfy and you are warm. I have my two little girls home, safe. But, those two little girls are my little girls as well," she said, choking up. "You feel like you have no right to be there. You just wish you could change places with them and let them be here."

It's only when she talks about Elizabeth's love of hockey and helping her learn to ride a bike, and Lyric's passion for gymnastics and photography that she can start to smile.

"They are just happy-go-lucky girls," Brousseau said, hugging Kaley Bertch, her daughter and one of Lyric's best friends.

Karinsa Billington, an Evansdale mother, has visited the lake every day since Sunday. Tuesday she left two roses and a note for the girls that read "Sweet Lyric and Elizabeth we will never give up."

Sometimes she brings her 12- and 9-year-old daughters with her.

"I'm not shielding them from this. The only thing I am shielding them from is the lake, just because I don't want them to see anything if they do find something," she said.

Instead, she is using this as a teaching moment for her family. She's reiterated the rules about traveling in pairs, being aware of their surroundings and stranger danger. She added that the girls' disappearance has also caused her to become a little more cautious about how she parents.

"I hug them a lot. I'm becoming that overprotective mom. But, they understand," she said.

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