Mother of Evansdale abduction, murder victim: ‘Time doesn’t heal, it just makes it worse’

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 11:22 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 12, 2022 at 12:52 AM CDT
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EVANSDALE, Iowa (KCRG) - Ten years after the abduction and murders of her daughter and niece, Heather Collins says time hasn’t helped the pain of losing the two little girls.

“It’s a nightmare to me every morning. I still have another day without one of my children. A piece of us is missing, a piece of our family is gone,” Heather said in an interview last month. “And we don’t know who did it, we don’t. The only thing we know is she’s in heaven with Lyric and they’re having the time of their lives. And we’re down here trying to get by each day.”

Elizabeth Collins, 8, and her cousin, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, were abducted while riding their bikes in Evansdale on July 13, 2012. Despite a massive search effort, the girls weren’t found until hunters discovered their remains in rural Bremer County five months later.

‘She kept us on our toes everyday’

Heather described her daughter as an energetic girl who loved people, animals, and swimming.

“She also loved the water. She was a water baby. She loved swimming and any chance you know we could go swimming, we did.” Heather said. “She just, she loved people, she loved, loved animals. If she could have had every animal out there, she would have. Any animal she saw she fell in love with and they loved her. She loved nature. She loved being outside.”

The younger Elizabeth and her older cousin were close, spending hours together at the Collins’ residence in Evansdale. Heather said they acted just like siblings.

“Fought like sisters over whatever, a toy, or whatever it was,” she recalled.

Heather said even though it has been ten years since the last time she saw her daughter, she remembers the last moments they spent together on the morning Elizabeth disappeared. Elizabeth climbed into her parents’ bed and talked about her upcoming birthday on July 31.

“Elizabeth came in my bed, and we talked that day,” Heather shared. “She was going to have like a Hawaiian-type theme - water with it, of course, with hula skirts and everything. So we just needed to get the invitations. After I got done doing some errands, she was … we were going to do that.”

‘She’s gone. They’re gone’

Heather left the family home that morning to run errands in the Cedar Valley. Heather’s mom, Wilma, was watching Lyric at the time and brought her to the Collins’ residence to help watch Elizabeth as well. The girls left the home and were last spotted riding their bikes in Evansdale between noon and one o’clock that afternoon.

“I just remember, you know, coming home and they weren’t there,” Heather said. “I went to like go look for her, look for them. And they were, you know I figured, well, let’s check the school park, check this place. Nowhere.”

Heather said after family members searched surrounding neighborhoods and parks with no signs of the girls, she decided to contact the police. At 2:48 p.m., the girls were reported missing. Law enforcement began a search that eventually grew to include neighboring agencies and first responders.

Heather’s then-husband, Drew, rode with Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock to search for the cousins. At approximately 4 p.m., the girls’ bikes and other belongings were found along a trail at nearby Meyers Lake. Heather received a text from Drew.

“(He) sent me a picture and said, ‘Is this Elizabeth?’ It was a Hannah Montana purse that had been thrown up over a fence. I was like, ‘Yeah. She’s gone. They’re gone.’”

That evening volunteers joined law enforcement in their search for Elizabeth and Lyric.

“I just remember that night, that first night, sitting on our porch, just waiting by the phone. You know, ‘please lord let them come home’ and they didn’t. It’s just a nightmare and to me, it’s still a nightmare.”

Frantic search and frustration

As the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the search, agents first focused on the family for any clues.

“They question you like nonstop, ‘What were you doing at this time? What were you doing there? I see that you made a call at this time?’”

Investigators collected the phones and personal computers of family members. They turned their attention to neighbors, friends, and associates of the family.

During the initial investigation, Heather’s sister – Lyric’s mom – Misty Cook, and her then-husband, Dan Morrissey, stopped cooperating with authorities, saying Dan felt targeted given his criminal history.

Heather said her brother-in-law and sister’s lack of cooperation was frustrating.

“It was really hard because my sister . . . she was missing, M-I-A, the whole time,” Heather said. “So that just made it harder because I just wanted my sister to be, you know there with me. I’m going through this - we’re both going through this huge, devastating time and she wasn’t there.”

‘Another beyond devastating day’

For nearly five months, Heather and Drew Collins joined volunteers searching for any information that would lead to the safe return of Lyric and Elizabeth.

“I just remember our last vigil; we had got around to like Iowa City and stuff handing out flyers of the girls. And we got back to the church here in town and I remember just being tired and, I couldn’t believe how tired I was. And I was just like, ‘Lord, I am just done. Please help us, this is just so tiring.’ Every day trying to find her and her cousin, it was so exhausting. So I remember being so tired that day. I don’t think I’ve ever been that tired in my life.”

Just a few weeks before Christmas 2012, the family received crushing news.

“December 5th came and their bodies were found. Another beyond devastating day. To have to tell her siblings that their sister and niece were no longer going to be coming home, they were up in heaven with Jesus. That was a nightmare in itself,” Heather remembered. “You never dream of having to do that. Ever. Anyone who has had to do that, to tell their kids … I don’t even know how I did it. How Drew and I did that. It was through the grace of God, I’ll tell you that, cuz I just don’t know. It’s gut-wrenching.”

Strained relationships and suspicions

After Elizabeth’s murder, Heather and Drew Collins divorced. Heather said the loss of their daughter destroyed the relationship.

She said her relationship with her sister Misty has been plagued by suspicion and unanswered questions in the years since their daughters were killed.

“I met with her for the first time in years last week we were out at the grave. I spoke with her, that was the first time in probably four years or now. I would go in like spurts to try to talk to her and that kind of stuff. I don’t want to be around chaos,” Heather said in a June interview. “I’ve never done drugs, I can’t be a part of that, I can’t be in that lifestyle that’s not me. So then I would have to step back out. And then I would see her doing really well, so I would step back in. But it never lasted very long, so. So back out, this last time I was just like done.”

Heather fears Misty and Dan’s involvement with drugs may have played a role in the case.

“I just hope and pray all the time that her and her husband Dan - they’re divorced now - that her and Dan didn’t have anything to do with it,” Heather said. “I’m already devastated as it is. I don’t know how much more devastated I could be to know that they were involved in any way or because of their drug use. Or because of their drug abuse that they were involved.”

Heather said she and Drew decided to have Elizabeth’s body buried and questions the motivation behind Misty’s decision to have Lyric cremated.

“They can still do tests on Elizabeth. They can’t on Lyric. Her body is cremated. I tried talking to Misty about that, begging her not to have that and she didn’t listen. When she did something like that, it’s to me, like, ‘what are you hiding? What are you hiding?’ Science keeps growing. You see it all the time in cases. ‘What are you hiding, you want her body cremated?’ It gives me more suspicion. ‘Why did you have her body cremated?’ It still to this day, it baffles me.

‘What gave you the right?’

After a decade of searching for answers, Heather holds out hope that someone will ultimately be brought to justice for killing Elizabeth and Lyric.

“Science changes all the time. So I just pray that they find them soon. That’s my prayer every day,” Heather said.

While she isn’t confident those responsible for the murders are still in the Cedar Valley, she continues to fear that her other children could be at risk. She wonders, “are they going to be out for them too?”

Among Heather’s unanswered questions: Why would anyone want to kill the two girls?

“What gave you the right to take my daughter and niece? What gave you the right? And how do you think that was okay to take someone else’s child and kill them . . . they wrecked more lives than they would ever know. They didn’t just wreck our families’ lives, the community is different because of it.”

If you have any information in the case, you are asked to call 1-855-355-TIPS or email

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