Cedar Rapids Weather
Source: Bodies Found in Bremer Co., Possibly Related to Missing Cousins Case
KCRG/Gazette/Courier Staff Reports
EVANSDALE, Iowa Authorities Wednesday said hunters found two bodies in a wooded area. While they did not say they were the missing girls from Evansdale, law officers said it was not the end they had hoped. Capt. Rick Abben said the two bodies were found in an undisclosed wooded area about 12:45 p.m. Wednesday.
Law enforcement tell KCRG-TV9 sources that the bodies were found in Bremer County. Although we were not given a specific location, the entrance to Seven Bridges Park has been closed and there is a police presence at the park tonight. Law enforcement officials in Bremer County will not release any details about what is happening at the park. That park is in the far southeast corner of Bremer County, about 20 miles from Meyers Lake.
The bodies have been taken to the state medical examiner's office for an autopsy and to get a positive identification.
Elizabeth Collins, now 9, of Evansdale, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, now 11, of Waterloo, who are cousins, have been missing from Evansdale since July 13 145 days.
The girls were last seen that day on their bicycles. Their bicycles and Elizabeth's purse were found near the recreational trail around Meyer's Lake in Evansdale. No trace of the girls has been seen since. They have been the subject of massive searches and police investigations by several agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The images of the two girls' smiling faces became a familiar, unsettling sight across Iowa on billboards, posters, bumper stickers, and even Halloween candy in the months after they went missing.
WATCH: Officials Announce Discovery of Two Bodies:
Evansdale Police and Fire Chief Kent Smock said investigators viewed the girls' disappearance as a missing-person case but didn't rule out the possibility of an abduction.
On July 16, the Monday after the girls went missing, authorities began draining 5-acre Meyers Lake, while Black Hawk County Chief Deputy Rick Abben admitted investigators "grasping for straws."
No bodies or other evidence were found in the lake. "It wouldn't be proper for me to stand here and tell you we have a theory because we don't," Abben told reporters. "We have two missing girls, and we have no idea why."
By July 19, Lyric's parents had consulted an attorney because they felt they were being treated as suspects, according to another family member.
The case was officially reclassified from missing people to an abduction July 20, the same day a judge granted prosecutors' request to place Daniel Morrissey under pretrial supervision while he awaits trial on drug charges.
The parents of both girls have been notified of the new development. They have asked for privacy.
Abben said he would give more information Thursday afternoon at a news conference.
Jennifer Lancaster, Department of Natural Resources law enforcement supervisor for Northeast Iowa, said DNR conservation officers have been involved with the recovery, but they, like all involved officers from all agencies, have been instructed not to comment on the specific location, which is being investigated as a crime scene.
After sundown, a lone Iowa State trooper guarded the entrance to the 7 Bridge Park, and a cadre of officers with the patrol, Bremer County Sheriff's Office, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and Iowa Department of Natural Resources met in the outbuilding of a nearby farm to go over plans for Thursday.
Lancaster said the odds of finding missing people' remains or evidence of other crimes increase during the shotgun deer season, when more than 70,000 hunters comb through remote woods and fields. More Iowans are afield during the two shotgun deer seasons (Dec. 1-5 and Dec. 8-16) than at any other time of the year, she said.
Lancaster said it is not uncommon for outdoors enthusiasts to play a role in law enforcement efforts. For example, kayakers found the body of 5-year-old Evelyn Miller in the Cedar River, days after she was abducted from her Floyd home in 2005, and anglers and boaters often discover the bodies of drowning victims. "During recent years deer hunters have also found evidence of meth labs throughout the state," Lancaster said.