Officials “Confident” Remains Are Those of Missing Cousins

KCRG/Gazette/Courier Staff Reports

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By Aaron Hepker

The Search for Lyric & Elizabeth
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EVANSDALE, Iowa — Black Hawk County Sheriff's Capt. Rick Abben Thursday said police are confident the two bodies found in Seven Bridges wildlife area in Bremer County Wednesday are the missing cousins.

In a short press conference Thursday afternoon, Abben said they still cannot officially say the bodies are the girls until the state medical examiner's office completes its investigation. But he added that there seems little doubt.

"We had no other missing people" and the bodies found were small in stature, Abben said.

Elizabeth was 8 and Lyric was 10 when they disappeared near Meyers Lake in Evansdale.. There has been no sign of the girls for months, and officials ruled their disappearance a kidnapping.

Hunters found two bodies in the wildlife area Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, investigators spent the entire day Thursday combing the 125-acre Seven Bridges Park, a county-owned wildlife area between Readlyn and Dunkerton. They also walked the ditches along 270th Street, the road leading to the park.

Abben said they investigation into the area where the bodies were found could take days.

Abben asked the public to help them in their investigation by calling in any tips they may have as to the case. The reward of $150,000 remains in effect.

“It’s definitely not the outcome that we wanted, obviously,” Black Hawk County sheriff’s Capt. Rick Abben said appearing to fight back tears during the Wednesday afternoon press conference in Evansdale, where the girls were being watched by their grandmother when they disappeared. “This is a difficult thing for us to go through. It’s a difficult thing for the community.”

WATCH: Thursday's Press Conference

In a post on her Facebook page late Wednesday, Heather Collins, Elizabeth’s mother, wrote that the outcome saddened her but that now “we know our girls are dancing up with our savior.”

Abben said the families had requested privacy. Craig Ceilly, who has acted as the Collins family’s media liaison in the past, has not yet returned messages left with him.

Jennifer Lancaster, chief law enforcement official for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in northeastern Iowa, said she believed it was deer hunters who stumbled upon the bodies and reported them immediately. DNR conservation officers were helping in the recovery effort, Lancaster said. Authorities had asked hunters to look out for the girls deer hunting season, which opened last weekend.

About 70 people attended a Wednesday night prayer vigil at Meyers Lake, where investigators had found the girls’ bicycles and a pink purse hours after they went missing. Some were holding out hope that the bodies weren’t those of the missing cousins. Others seemed resigned to accept news.

“I don’t want to think the worst, but two bodies. It’s just really heartbreaking,” said Amanda Mulzac, who lives in nearby Waterloo and was among hundreds of volunteers who helped in the initial search. “At their age I was out by myself, but now it’s different. Hold your babies close.”

After the girls disappeared, hundreds of volunteers helped investigators to search in the cornfields and wooded areas in and around Evansdale, a city of 8,000 residents. The mayor used his private plane for an aerial search. After an FBI dive team using specialized equipment to search the bottom of the lake for the girls found nothing, police classified the case as an abduction.

Investigators have largely been tight-lipped in the months since. An FBI spokeswoman initially said investigators had reason to believe the girls were alive, but other investigators backtracked, saying only that there was no reason to believe the girls were dead.

In the just less than six months since the girls disappeared, Investigators have pursued thousands of tips and chased multiple theories in the case.

They looked into Cook’s parents, who had criminal records for prior involvement in producing methamphetamine. Cook’s father, Daniel Morrissey, is being prosecuted for domestic assault and a series of drug charges. He backed out of a plea agreement with prosecutors the day before the disappearance. They have denied any involvement.

The region rallied around finding the girls, wearing T-shirts and buttons, hanging fliers at gas stations and in business windows and continuing to hold vigils. Last week an anonymous donor pledged $100,000, in addition to the $50,000 that police had offered, for information about the girls’ whereabouts.

After Wednesday night’s vigil, family friend Sarah Curl said it was a tight-knit, caring community.

“When something happens to one family it happens to all of our families,” Curl said. “This could have happened to anyone.”
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