EVANSDALE, Iowa — Authorities have ruled out a potential suspect in the case of two young cousins whose bodies were found months after their disappearance in northeast Iowa.
In a media release, Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock said similarities between the abduction and murder of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins and the abduction and murder of Kathlynn Shepard nearly a year later led a team of investigators to explore a possible connection between the cases. Authorities suspect Michael Klunder abducted 15-year-old Shepard and 12-year-old Dezi Hughes on May 20, 2013. Hughes managed to escape, and investigators believe Klunder killed Shepard and then himself.
On Wednesday, Chief Smock said investigators spent “a great deal of time” looking into a possible connection, but didn’t find any and announced Klunder was no longer a person of interest in the case of Elizabeth and Lyric. The girls were 8 and 10, respectively, at the time of their disappearance.
The cousins were last seen riding their bikes in Evansdale on July 13, 2012. Hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officers spent the next several days searching the area around Myers Lake, where investigators found the girls’ bikes. A dive team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation dove into the lake after it was partially drained, but did not find the girls’ remains.
On Decemeber 5th, hunters found two bodies in the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area in Bremer County. Autopsies later confirmed they belonged to the missing cousins.
Chief Smock says Evansdale Police, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the FBI continue to follow leads in the girls’ disappearance. He says anyone wiht informaiton should call the tipline, 319-232-6682. He says investigators particularly want to talk with anyone familiar with Myers Lake or the wildlife area, as they may have information that could be valuable to the case.
Smock says leads have decreased over the past six months, but still considers it an open investigation. So far, investigators have more than 60,000 documents on file and are working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.