Sheriff: Discovery of bodies will aid investigation

2012-12-07T17:00:00Z 2013-01-03T21:19:13Z Sheriff: Discovery of bodies will aid investigationJEFF REINITZ, Waterloo Courier The Quad-City Times
December 07, 2012 5:00 pm  • 

EVANSDALE, Iowa --- The tragic discovery of the two bodies believed to be those of the missing cousins has allowed authorities to narrow their investigation.

“This discovery doesn’t end this investigation, it just begins a new chapter,” said Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson.

He said the development gives authorities the ability to “draw conclusions off what we already know, and some of the people we already talked to and likely open up additional avenues for us to purse. That’s fantastic, because we were chasing down leads that were a lot of times ended up being vaporous for us. Now we’re are able to commit a concerted effort in a single direction.”

Since July 13 — when Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, were last seen riding their bikes in Evansdale — detectives have chased even the most far-fetched tips as the investigation has gone from a missing person case to an abduction probe to a presumed homicide case.

Wednesday’s discovery at Seven Bridges Wildlife Area by hunters has allowed authorities to narrow their focus, Thompson said.

“We spent five and a half months working every lead from a pop bottle cap to somebody with a divining rod. We’re finally at a position where we’ve got some tangible evidence, some credible evidence that we can move on,” Thompson said.

On Friday, authorities rounded out their third day in the investigation’s new chapter with some 50 officers on the scene documenting clues at 7 Bridges, a 125-acre wildlife area in rural Bremer County.

The entire park, accessible by a gravel road, remained closed to the public, and Capt. Rick Abben said law enforcement may hold the scene until Monday, if not longer.

It wasn’t immediately known if authorities had searched 7 Bridges when the disappearance was fresh in July, but Thompson said investigators had requested neighboring counties check their parks for signs of the girls.

Neighbors said the out-of-the-way park sees little traffic, with the exception of hunting season.

Even if it had been checked, it would have been difficult to find the bodies, Thompson said.

“It’s pretty rough up there,” he said. “The location of where those bodies were found, if those hunters had moved five feet either direction, they wouldn’t have seen them.”

The Iowa Medical Examiner’s Office is handling the autopsies to determine the cause of death and the positively identify the bodies. Abben said authorities are certain the bodies are those of Lyric and Elizabeth because of their small stature and the fact there are no similar missing persons cases in the area.


Authorities hope bodies will yield break in missing cousins case

EVANSDALE, Iowa  — A sheriff investigating the apparent kidnapping and slaying of two Iowa cousins said Friday that the discovery of the young girls’ bodies is a long-awaited break in the case that could help find their killer.

Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson said investigators would be deliberate in pursuing the case of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins, who were 10 and 8 when they disappeared in Evansdale in July. Hunters stumbled upon two bodies believed to be Cook and Collins in a wooded wildlife area some 25 miles away on Wednesday.

Thompson said it could take “several weeks” for their autopsies to be complete and the results to be made public.

“We’re going to be extremely meticulous and we’re not going to apologize for that,” he said a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We’ve got an opportunity to find a killer.”

After nearly five months of chasing tips and theories about the girls’ whereabouts, Thompson said police “finally have something credible. We finally have something we can sink our teeth into” in the high-profile case.

Thompson’s remarks indicate the case is becoming a homicide investigation. At a news conference Thursday, Thompson’s chief deputy said the investigation was leaning that way but that police would wait for the autopsy results before making the change.

Teams of local and federal officers have scoured the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area in Bremer County for evidence since the discovery of the bodies, searching in ditches along the road, fields and woods. The Iowa Medical Examiner’s Office, which is handling the autopsies, was also at the scene. That office has declined comment on the autopsies.

The sheriff’s office had asked neighboring counties, including Bremer County, to search their parks and wildlife areas for the girls after they vanished last summer, Thompson said. He said that as far as he knows, Bremer County officers did search the popular hunting and fishing spot but that the bodies would have been hard for anyone to spot.

“Even the hunters, if they had gone five feet in either direction, would not have found those bodies,” he said.

The girls left the Collins’ home in Evansdale, where they were being watched by their grandmother, for a bike ride July 13 and never returned. Authorities found their bikes and a purse near a recreational lake in the city, and their disappearance sparked a massive search and kidnapping investigation involving the FBI, state and local police.

The cousins’ families had been hoping they would come home, maybe even for Christmas, until this week’s news.

“This 100 percent blindsided us and it absolutely did them as well,” said Sara Curl, a friend of the girls’ families.

Curl helped organize a vigil for the girls Thursday night, one of many community activities that will be needed to help people heal in the days ahead, she said. The vigil was held around a Christmas tree that had been set up to honor the girls — with the hope they would be home for Christmas to see it.

In a posting on her Facebook page Thursday, Heather Collins, Elizabeth’s mother, said it was not the outcome the family wanted but now “we know our girls are dancing up with our savior.” Collins thanked the community for an outpouring of support.

When Zuhra Hodzic, 25, of Waterloo, saw that Facebook message, she was heartbroken. Hodzic was a volunteer on searches for the girls and other community activities.

“You’re left with a blank,” she said searching for the words and fighting back tears. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating.”

For her and many others at the vigil, the focus turns now to finding who is responsible.

“Our community deserves justice, and I hope our FBI agents and cops and everybody involved gets for us what we deserve,” she said, “and that’s justice for the whole family and all of us.” 

Authorities are 'confident' that bodies are 2 Evansdale cousins

By Matthew Wilde, Waterloo Courier

EARLIER STORY: EVANSDALE, Iowa — Authorities stopped short Thursday of saying cousins Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey were murdered, but they are leaning that way.

Investigators are confident the two bodies found by hunters Wednesday in the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area in southeast Bremer County are 11-year-old Lyric and 9-year-old Elizabeth, youngsters who vanished while riding their bicycles July 13 in Evansdale.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon at the Evansdale Response Center, Capt. Rick Abben of the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Department said the identities have yet to be confirmed by the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office in Ankeny.

However, Abben left little doubt the remains found were the missing cousins. He said the bodies were small in stature and no other children are missing.

“We considered it an abduction at the time and we’re still proceeding with that,” he said when asked if the case is now considered a double homicide. “I would say we’re looking that way at this time; we have two bodies. But we’re going to rely on the state medical examiner.”

Abben didn’t say when the autopsy results would be made public.

Local, state and federal investigators converged on the 125-acre wooded area shortly after the bodies were discovered at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday to process the crime scene and look for clues. Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock said aerial photographs also were taken.

Law enforcement officials spent much of Thursday searching grass fields and ditches near the wildlife area and in the park. Smock said the FBI’s Evidence Recovery Team was asked to assist the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Evansdale Police, sheriff’s departments in Bremer and Black Hawk counties, and other officers.

Abben asked anyone who noticed suspicious activity in or near the wildlife area to contact police. The popular fishing and hunting destination is located about 6 miles southeast of Readlyn.

No new details about the case were provided Thursday, such as time or cause of death, the condition of the bodies or if they were buried or concealed. Abben didn’t say if there were any suspects in the girls’ deaths or a possible motive.

Abben said the public hunting area will be closed at least through Monday as investigators search for evidence. Iowa’s second shotgun deer hunting season began Saturday and runs through Dec. 16.

Officials wouldn’t say if the weather or anything else has helped or hurt the collection of evidence.

“We have plenty of people that are out there. They are well-trained and know what they are doing; we will gather whatever is out there,” Abben said.

The families of the girls have not seen the bodies, he said.

Lyric and Elizabeth disappeared while riding bikes on July 13 in Evansdale. The bikes, a purse and cellphone — the last trace of them — were found on the southeast corner of Meyers Lake on and near the recreation trail.

Seven Bridges is about 20 miles north of Meyers Lake. An Iowa State Patrol trooper was stationed Thursday about a half-mile from the area’s entrance, preventing access to unauthorized people. The trooper gathered names of people who approached.

At the girls’ schools, additional counselors were made available Thursday for students and others, Sharon Miller, the Waterloo schools spokeswoman said. Lyric would have been in fifth grade at Kingsley elementary in Waterloo and Elizabeth would have been in fourth grade at Poyner school in Evandsale.

In a posting on her Facebook page late Wednesday, Heather Collins, Elizabeth’s mother, said it was not the outcome the family wanted but now “we know our girls are dancing up with our savior.” Collins thanked the community for an outpouring of support.

Several elected officials have issued public condolences and a promise to the girls’ families.

Calling the situation tragic, Gov. Terry Branstad pledged to re-evaluate state laws and procedures designed to protect children’s safety in hopes of improving law officers’ ability to respond quickly and enlisting the public’s help more efficiently and effectively when someone is abducted.

“My heart sank when I learned about (the) discovery of two bodies linked to the disappearance of Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins,” said Rep. Bruce Braley in a statement.

“Their disappearance has been agonizing for their parents, loved ones, and the entire Cedar Valley community. My thoughts and prayers are with Lyric and Elizabeth’s families during this difficult time,” he added.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(25) Comments

  1. Dolphin
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    Dolphin - December 07, 2012 7:14 pm
  2. Randogg420
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    Randogg420 - December 07, 2012 6:50 pm
    Do not let the prosecutor make any kind off sweetheart deal with this monster because they do all the time hopefully a hero will come forward and skin this mother alive
  3. sisterangel57
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    sisterangel57 - December 06, 2012 11:38 pm
    My prayers goes to the girls families. I believe the person(s) who done this should go to the chair. No child can defend themselfs. We the villiage have to help look out for our children.
  4. Bdorfres
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    Bdorfres - December 06, 2012 10:08 pm
    These girls are now in the arms of our Heavenly Father feeling no more pain or fear, completely surrounded with His love. I pray for their family and friends during this difficult time.
  5. screener79
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    screener79 - December 06, 2012 9:38 pm
    Hope they find out what happened and catch the correct person or persons.
  6. Lorne
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    Lorne - December 06, 2012 9:04 pm
    Feel that these girls were abducted and murdered in this monster's home, a male and their bodies were kept in his home, some one who live in the area or hunt in the area and after murdering the girls, their bodies were later dumped back into the area that they were found.....Very, Very, Very Sad.....feel there's hope to find the killer.
  7. Bobaloo
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    Bobaloo - December 06, 2012 8:57 pm
    The bad thing about punishing the perpetrator as severely as possible -- and make no mistake, he deserves it, and it should happen to him -- is that no matter how severe the punishment, how high the voltage or how strong the rope or how asphyxiating the gas is ... you can never exactly duplicate the punishment these two innocent girls received, or bring them back. Never, ever.

    The best thing to do is to take away his freedom and turn him over to the general prison population ... it won't take them long to deal with him.

    Til then, I hope he enjoyed his Thanksgiving dinner, making passes at his sister-in-law who thinks he's creepy, getting drunk and yelling at the TV and berating the wife for not making the gravy just right.
  8. mother2many
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    mother2many - December 06, 2012 7:22 pm
    I was looking at the "missing" poster that is in the window where I work today, thinking "I should take that down now". Ok, I wanted to take it down, but because they had been found alive and well. I am hoping that their families have a measure of peace now, knowing what happened to their children. So many children go missing, never to be found, dead or alive. At least now their can be some closure. I also hope that whoever is responsible for this horrific crime is found and punished as much as possible for what they've done. As a previous commenter said, we don't know how long these girls have been in the woods, or what they went through before their deaths. What makes me shudder is thinking of how they may have been abused and tortured since their abduction.
  9. Bobaloo
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    Bobaloo - December 06, 2012 5:26 pm
    A possible explanation: How long were the bodies actually there? I agree that such is a question the medical examiner might help answer (i.e., how long they've been dead), so whether they were dumped there in July or if it was sometime between then and now, we don't know yet.

    Draw your own conclusions, but if they died only recently and not back shortly after they were taken ... if they indeed were sexually abused, how long they might have been tortured and such. Sends shivers up your spine, don't it?
  10. TruthOnlyBeTold
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    TruthOnlyBeTold - December 06, 2012 4:19 pm
    Yes, it made me wonder too. To what purpose, I have no idea.
  11. CMW
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    CMW - December 06, 2012 4:03 pm
    Does anyone find it peculiar that Daniel Morrissey backed out of a plea bargain & then these girls disappear the next day???

  12. gramwand
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    gramwand - December 06, 2012 4:02 pm
    I can't help but wonder why someone hasn't located these babies before now, since it was popular for mushroom hunters, people fishing and a teenage getaway.
    BTW I agree with @donjuan463
    Would it be less if it were not these two little girls?
  13. Bobaloo
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    Bobaloo - December 06, 2012 3:06 pm
    Add my list to the names of those who hopes justice is swift and sure for the killer(s).

    I'll admit, however, the thought crossed my mind that some completely sick individual could do something so wrong, so evil ... make them play games and what not, and then when they "wore out their usefulness," this person/these people killed them and then dumped in some disposal ground in a remote area, thinking nobody would ever find them or care, like garbage and leave them as bird food.

    That said, we do not know for sure whether they had been sexually abused or what. On talk radio, I've heard comments along the lines of a feud between their families and a couple of ex-significant others. Drugs have also been brought up. Who knows?

    Whatever the case is ... their killers probably got to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without so much as giving their victims a second thought. A warm, full-course meal, then probably an afternoon of trying to make passes at the sister-in-law, getting drunk and acting boorish during the Wions and Cowboys-owboys-wboys games, ... you get the idea.

    And the families of Elizabeth and Lyric? Worried sick that the fates of their daughter and niece were still unknown. No Thanksgiving, no camraderie with family or good times watching football ... just worry and fear.

    Please, light a candle for Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrisey today! And pray for justice, swift and sure.
  14. TruthOnlyBeTold
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    TruthOnlyBeTold - December 06, 2012 2:28 pm
    They were found about 20 miles North of where their bikes were found at the lake. There is nothing but open farmland between Evansdale and the wooded area next to the Wapsipinicon River where they were found....so no, they did not just wander there on their own.
  15. donjuan463
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    donjuan463 - December 06, 2012 1:50 pm
    Am I the only one who finds it odd that they would post such a sad outcome for their children for the whole world to see, on Facebook of all places??? Then ask for privacy! I'm sorry, but seems shallow.
  16. donjuan463
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    donjuan463 - December 06, 2012 1:36 pm
    At this point, only the medical examiner can make that call.
  17. donjuan463
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    donjuan463 - December 06, 2012 1:33 pm
    So sad for all involved. Your first sentence thou: "...do not let it be these little girls..." So, it would not be so bad if it's not them???!
  18. Klaatu
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    Klaatu - December 06, 2012 1:20 pm
    Tragic, but at least the families now know that the girls are not alive. As bad as that is, it is better than living with not knowing. We may never know the truth about what happened to those little girls. We really gotta' start getting punitive with people who prey on children.
  19. writingmomma
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    writingmomma - December 06, 2012 12:42 pm
    Family member!
  20. Frankie E
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    Frankie E - December 06, 2012 12:05 pm
    Do the authorities know for sure if these were homicides or might these little ones have gotten lost in the woods? So sad. Prayers to the families.
  21. Taylor 23
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    Taylor 23 - December 06, 2012 11:47 am
    Such a tragedy. Prayers to all. Rest in peace little ones.
  22. Terry W
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    Terry W - December 06, 2012 11:01 am
    Who is it that was attempting suicide, family member? Any parent that has a child missing could possibly think those thoughts as it is certainly a reality that missing longer than 48 hours is pretty much the fact that they are no longer alive as the investigators/police will tell and do tell the parents. I can only think of a handful that have been found alive......I could not even begin to imagine being in those shoes and NOT thinking so myself.
  23. richardboydenjarhead
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    richardboydenjarhead - December 06, 2012 8:38 am
    Demon possessed predators who kill and rape women and children...when found...should be dealt with by what was called "western justice". Back in those days, when they were proved to be guilty...by 1 quick trial with "no appeal"...they were then walked to the gallows...end of story. What is secondarily sad to families and parents who suffer this evil, they are afterwords submitted to the "evil games for money" judges and lawyers play...even with evidence proving guilt. When guilt is a fact...DNA being THE proof as an example...capital punishment should be instant and any "defense" by a huxter lawyer should not even be considered. NO MERCY for the killer or killers of these girls. Send them to he ll where the mouth of is waiting wide open!
  24. writingmomma
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    writingmomma - December 06, 2012 8:09 am
    My heart is just sick this morning to hear of these beautiful children's demise. How could someone do such a thing? This shows the evil that lives in the hearts, souls and minds of some. I will continue to pray for the families to heal. I know the hurt of their loss is enormous. But, I have a question to pose. Why would you try to kill yourself if you had nothing to do with these babies disappearance, not knowing whether they were deceased or alive? Unless, you knew what the outcome would be. Hmmmmmmm? More investigation into that area is truly warranted. It just just sick all the perverts out there trying to hurt innocent children. Because they are too weak mentally to have normal lives. Catch these monsters in America and bring back the death penalty. Therefore, the killers will think twice, before something like this happens. Place the image of the electric chair all over television. I can see the commercial now, "Touch children in an inappropriate way and this will be your fate."
  25. 1of3
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    1of3 - December 05, 2012 7:41 pm
    So sad, I read this and find myself praying please god do not let it be these little girls, but I know that it most likely is or the police would not of notified the family of the finding. I had so hoped they would be found alive. I do not know this family, but my heart breaks for them. I can not imagine there pain. How anyone could harm an innocent child is just something I can not comprehend and it seems to be happening more and more often. I also feel for the hunters who had the misfortune of finding the bodies, how horrible for them. I do not know how they will ever get this day out of there minds. Prayers to all!!
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