EVANSDALE, Iowa — An FBI dive team from Los Angeles may join other agents and Iowa officers investigating the disappearance of two young cousins.

Eight-year-old Elizabeth Collins and 10-year-old Lyric Cook-Morrissey were last seen Friday at their grandmother's house in Evansdale, a suburb of Waterloo in northeast Iowa. Their bicycles and Elizabeth's purse were found later that day at nearby Meyers Lake, and FBI dogs detected the girls' scent in the area.

FBI spokeswoman Sandy Breault (broh) said Wednesday that if the divers are deployed, they would search the deeper holes of water in the lake. Officials have been draining it since Monday.

Breault also says the FBI's Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team of five or six is on the scene in Iowa. She would not comment on the focus of their investigation.


EARLIER STORY

Evansdale's missing girls makes it 'a different summer' at Meyers Lake

EVANSDALE, Iowa --- Usually a popular spot on a hot summer day, the beach at Meyers Lake drew a different sort of crowd Tuesday afternoon. Children were closely watched by anxious, distracted parents as the lake slowly drained, part of the search for two young girls missing since Friday.

“It’s definitely going to be a different summer for a lot of kids in this area, and I think all over the United States,” said Robyn Geduski. “I think people are going to think twice about letting their kids go out the door and go about their usual summer activities.”

By the end of the day, police said — at least publicly — there’s been no breaks in the search for cousins Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook, 10.

“I have no idea where they are,” Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Capt. Rick Abben told the media at a late-afternoon press conference. “I wish I did.”

The two girls were last seen early Friday afternoon, and their bicycles were found near the southeast corner of the man-made lake, prompting authorities to begin draining it Monday.

Lyric’s parents said they don’t think the girls’ bodies are in the lake.

“It’s like a dead end as far as we know so far,” Dan Morrissey, who came to the lake with his wife Misty Morrissey in the early afternoon to tape an interview for a cable news show.

“If they were swimming, they would have taken their shoes off” and bodies would have surfaced by now, said Misty Morrissey.

Abben said searchers found the girls’ bikes and a purse containing a de-activated cell phone Friday, but no shoes, clothing, or signs of a disturbance, near the Evansdale Nature Trail that encircles the lake.

Elizabeth apparently used the cell phone to play games and listen to music.

“We have the bicycles and we have the purse,” he said. “That doesn’t tell me they’ve been there, it tells me those items were there.”

“We’re pretty confident they’re not around here, based on the searching that’s been done,” said Misty Morrissey.

That leaves the parents the grim hope the girls were abducted and still alive.

“If they are alive, God is present with them,” said Misty Morrissey. “We believe God will move that person” to release them.

Abben said Evansdale police, sheriff’s deputies, and state and federal agents are running down leads, now coming from other states as the search becomes national news.

“We are looking outside of Evansdale now,” he said. “We have people who think they have seen someone, and those calls are being followed up.”

The decision to drain the lake was to eliminate the possibility of a drowning, Abben said.

“Let’s be 100 percent sure, and the only way to do that is to drain the lake,” he said.

Once that’s done, investigators will determine their next moves.

“This is still a 24/7 operation,” Abben said. “You’ll just have to wait and see what happens once the lake is drained.”

Abben was unsure how long it will take to drain Meyers Lake into a channel leading under the Interstate to the nearby Cedar River. He said the pond, created by I-380’s construction and developed as a city park, was drained after the 2008 flooding and after a fish kill the following year.

Abben said the two girls’ family members have been “very cooperative” with investigators. He declined comment on what if anything was found by two scent-tracking dogs brought in by the FBI.

Two Evansdale firefighters paddled slow circuits of the lake in kayaks, examining the newly exposed shoreline as the water receded. Neighborhood residents and some from farther away stood behind yellow crime-scene tape in the still heat.

“It’s just a safe little town,” said Les Jensen, 55, who walked over from his house near the park. “So this is really, really odd.”

Breanna Baron, 22, who lives a few blocks away, said she often brings her three-year-old goddaughter to the lake to swim or fish off one of its piers. Until now, wasn’t uncommon to see children Lyric’s and Elizabeth’s age riding their bikes unaccompanied by an adult, she said.

“It’s an easy area, convenient for the kids,” she said. “Everybody just wants to know what’s going on.”

“You notice the park doesn’t have many children in it today,” said Jensen, nodding toward the deserted playground. “Right now, it’s like a ghost town on the bike trail.”

Later in the afternoon Geduski, 31, of Waterloo, kept son Keaton Geduski, 7, and Kierra Geduski, 6, within easy reach. They brought a friend: Kaden Karns, 10, who said he rode the bus with Lyric to Kingsley Elementary School.

“I did a lot of stuff on the bus, funny stuff, and she likes that,” Kaden said. “She’s not a hater.”

“I was shocked,” to hear Lyric was missing, said Kaden. “I didn’t know it was her. My mom just told me the names.”

“I just sat straight up in bed and said, ‘Oh my gosh, how do I know those faces?” Geduski recalled when she first saw the news.

Geduski said Lyric, and possibly Elizabeth, had attended vacation bible school at Heartland Vineyard Church in Cedar Falls, where her family and Lyric’s are both members.

“Her mother’s very strong in her faith,” she said. “I’m very hopeful they’re going to turn up. They’re going to have a lead, and they’ll find them.”

In the meantime, Geduski said, she and her neighbors are being extra watchful. When recalled when her children asked to go to a friend’s house around the corner this weekend.

“I was like, ‘let me call their dad and talk to him, and he can go watch you come around the corner and I can watch you walk down to the corner,’ ” she said.

Abben said there’s no evidence to support additional anxiety on the part of local parents.

The nights have been the worst since Lyric disappeared, Misty Morrissey said.

“There seems to be a lot more time to be on your own and think,” she said.

“We’ve never gone through anything like this,” said Dan Morrissey. “I just don’t know. It’s hard to get up and deal with the reality that your daughter’s gone.”


EARLIER STORY

Family of missing Evansdale girls trying to stay positive

EVANSDALE, Iowa — Family members of the two missing girls in Evansdale continue to “try and stay positive” as the search presses on for Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, which now is in its fourth day.

Misty Morrissey, mother of Lyric, said as the days go by, things only get harder.

“Right now, we are pretty emotional, pretty sad,” Cook-Morrissey said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “But we believe that God is going to bring a resolution to this.”

Law enforcement taped off much of Meyers Lake early Tuesday afternoon, as the draining of the lake continues in search of resolving the mystery that surrounds the girls’ disappearance last Friday.

Daniel Morrissey, Lyric’s father, said his daughter is a fair swimmer and doubts the possibility of a drowning.

“I don’t think that they are in the lake, not at all. It’s a dead end as far as we know,” Daniel said.

Family members say they have their doubts but still have no guesses as to the whereabouts of the girls.

“We have no theories,” Misty said. “Trying to remain positive, we have no idea. We are pretty confident that they aren’t around here.”

Despite any frustration the family feels toward the search, Misty claims they are aware and appreciate all the efforts put forth by law enforcement in the search to find their daughter and niece.

“They are the professionals, they know what they are doing, they’ve got their processes, they have experience, so we trust that they are doing anything they can,” Misty said.

Officials said the search expanded farther into Black Hawk County, with K9 units from various agencies, including the FBI units, scanning the area for any trace of a scent.

Any updates will be made during a news conference at 4 p.m.

By Dave Franzman

KCRG-TV

EVANSDALE, Iowa — Authorities taped off a larger section around the shoreline of Meyers Lake Tuesday morning, stepping up search efforts in the area around the lake for any sign of the two Evansdale girls who disappeared Friday afternoon.

Earlier, authorities had marked off only sections of the biking and hiking trail around the lake, where bicycles belonging to Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and a purse were discovered Friday. The two girls haven’t been spotted since then, leading to massive search efforts through the weekend and into this week.

The lake level had dropped several feet Tuesday morning, after authorities decided Monday to drain the lake, apparently to aid in a shoreline search. Officers on the scene would not comment about their activities, but it appeared they were planning a more intensive search in areas now uncovered by the dropping water.

Members of Cook’s family are at the lake at Tuesday, appearing on national network news programs to talk about the search. Tammy Brousseau, the aunt of both girls, said the family is not expecting the draining of the lake to reveal any new information.

Family members said they agree with Evansdale firefighters that dragging operations should have uncovered any evidence of the girls in the lake but said they do support the draining decision to support their assumptions.

The next news briefing for the media is set for 4 p.m. Tuesday.

CUTLINe:

Buttons are offered at Creative Impact to help search efforts for Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, in Evansdale, Iowa. (MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor)

By AUSTIN ASHLOCK

Waterloo Courier

EVANSDALE — A volunteer with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said Tuesday the agency boasts a 98 percent to 99 percent recovery rate for missing children — alive or dead.

Pat Farrell, who has been with the national nonprofit agency since 1998, has been helping local law enforcement find two girls that went missing in Evansdale last Friday. He’s not giving up hope that Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, of Waterloo and her 8-year-old cousin Elizabeth Collins will be found alive.

The girls were last seen riding bikes near downtown Evansdale by their grandmother at 12:15 p.m. Friday. Their bikes were recovered on the southeast corner of Meyers Lake about four hours later. Extensive searches for the girls since have turned up nothing, officials said.

“For any missing person, the longer it (the search) goes, the more gloomy it gets,” said Farrell, the retired chief of police in Rochester, Minn. “The chances of recovery diminishes but doesn’t disappear.”

The center is based in Alexandria, Va.

Star 1 Search and Rescue, a nonprofit based in Story County, also is aiding in the search. Jim Peters, a volunteer representing the group in Evansdale, said the group typically has a “better than 50 percent” rate of finding missing people alive or otherwise.

Speculating about the chances for recovery here is unwise, he said, but he’s optimistic. A missing 8-year-old in Virginia recently was found by searchers after five nights.

A successful “recovery does happen. ... Conditions are hot but not cold enough at night to injure someone,” Peters said.

Officials said the search continues today for Elizabeth and Lyric. Meyers Lake is being drained and about 30 law enforcement officers are searching wooded areas and abandoned buildings outside of Evansdale.

CUTLINE: Drew Collins, front, is comforted by his wife, Heather, center, during a prayer vigil held for the Collins’ missing daughter Elizabeth, 8, and her cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, of Waterloo. The vigil was Monday night at Heartland Vineyard Church in Cedar Falls. (DAWN J. SAGERT / Courier Staff Photographer

Hundreds gather at vigil for missing girls

By KAREN BUSHANAM

Waterloo Courier

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — At the close of day four of the investigation into the disappearance of two girls, hundreds gathered to pray passionately and with confidence for their safe and speedy return.

An estimated 700 people turned out for a vigil Monday night at Heartland Vineyard Church in Cedar Falls. Families of the missing cousins, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, of Waterloo, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, of Evansdale, attend the church, according to pastors.

“He’s the one who knows all. He is the one who knows where these little girls are at. Our job is to seek him,” said Reggie Hovenga, an associate pastor at Heartland Vineyard.

Lyric and Elizabeth were last seen Friday afternoon near downtown Evansdale. Their bikes and Elizabeth’s purse were found four hours later near Meyers Lake, which is being drained.

Hundreds of volunteers helped search the area, and law enforcement remains vigilant. But efforts have yet to produce any leads, clues or evidence of significance, according to law enforcement.

Pastors leading the vigil said God is good and has a plan no matter the outcome. But prayers spoken at the vigil largely reflected the hope and belief that God can and will work a miracle.

“He is the one who brings comfort. He is the one who brings peace. He is the one who we seek at this time,” Hovenga added. “He is our hope. He is our refuge.”

The vigil allowed the Heartland Vineyard congregation and the community to experience God’s love and show support for the families of Lyric and Elizabeth.

“It is so prevalent on everyone’s mind. ... I know we are all praying constantly,” said Debbi Jones, 58, of Waterloo.

Although authorities have not declared the vanishing an abduction, some in the community appear to view it that way.

“Well, the No. 1 thing is we are praying for an answer, that God would show someone where the girls are or for whoever took them to let them go,” Jones added.

For those attending the vigil, prayer is an important part of a game plan to bring the girls home that includes mass public awareness.

Tracy McNamara of Waterloo stood at the door of the sanctuary with other volunteers and handed out bright orange posters with information about and portraits of Lyric and Elizabeth.

As a mother, McNamara felt compelled to go to the church to pray and help spread the word.

“My daughter’s 10, just like Lyric,” McNamara said.

The evening alternated between songs about God’s love, care and faithfulness and Scripture reading and prayer.

Many petitioners lifted tear-streamed faces and hands in fervent praise. Later, the crowd knelt together in silence.

At one point, Elizabeth’s mother, Heather Collins, took the stage to read Bible verses. Her words brought the gathering to its feet and hugs and more intimate prayers were shared by people in nearby seats.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. ... Great is your faithfulness,” a portion of Lamentations 3:22-23.

Mark Wubbena, 38, of Waterloo, unable to help with the search over the weekend, was grateful for the opportunity to gather with others who love and care for the families of Lyric and Elizabeth.

Wubbena skateboarded as a teen with Elizabeth’s father, Drew Collins, and helps moderate a Facebook event page related to the search effort.

“This church has actually saved my life, so to come here and be with my church family means everything in the world,” Wubbena said.

The service also was meaningful for his mother, Bette, and his daughter, Lizzy, 11.

“I let all my love out, and I just kind of cried,” Lizzy said. “I met (Elizabeth and Lyric) at a park, and they were really sweet and really nice.”

Staff at Heartland Vineyard quickly organized a prayer vigil — at least two others occurred over the weekend at a boat dock and at an Evansdale church — after the church office fielded numerous requests from concerned people seeking a way to help. Members used social media to spread the word and the vigil attracted regular church-goers but also new faces.

“There’s hope. We want to keep putting that out there,” said Chris Reeves, an associate pastor. “God’s still in charge.”

The sermon topic on Sunday at Heartland Vineyard will address themes related to God and faith in the midst of pain and difficult circumstances.


 

 

EVANSDALE — A volunteer with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said Tuesday the agency boasts a 98 percent to 99 percent recovery rate for missing children — alive or dead.

Pat Farrell, who has been with the national nonprofit agency since 1998, has been helping local law enforcement find two girls that went missing in Evansdale last Friday. He’s not giving up hope that Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, of Waterloo and her 8-year-old cousin Elizabeth Collins will be found alive.

The girls were last seen riding bikes near downtown Evansdale by their grandmother at 12:15 p.m. Friday. Their bikes were recovered on the southeast corner of Meyers Lake about four hours later. Extensive searches for the girls since have turned up nothing, officials said.

“For any missing person, the longer it (the search) goes, the more gloomy it gets,” said Farrell, the retired chief of police in Rochester, Minn. “The chances of recovery diminishes but doesn’t disappear.”

The center is based in Alexandria, Va.

Star 1 Search and Rescue, a nonprofit based in Story County, also is aiding in the search. Jim Peters, a volunteer representing the group in Evansdale, said the group typically has a “better than 50 percent” rate of finding missing people alive or otherwise.

Speculating about the chances for recovery here is unwise, he said, but he’s optimistic. A missing 8-year-old in Virginia recently was found by searchers after five nights.

A successful “recovery does happen. ... Conditions are hot but not cold enough at night to injure someone,” Peters said.

Officials said the search continues today for Elizabeth and Lyric. Meyers Lake is being drained and about 30 law enforcement officers are searching wooded areas and abandoned buildings outside of Evansdale.


EARLIER STORY

Hundreds gather for missing girls

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — At the close of day four of the investigation into the disappearance of two girls, hundreds gathered to pray passionately and with confidence for their safe and speedy return.

An estimated 700 people turned out for a vigil Monday night at Heartland Vineyard Church in Cedar Falls. Families of the missing cousins, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, of Waterloo, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, of Evansdale, attend the church, according to pastors.

“He’s the one who knows all. He is the one who knows where these little girls are at. Our job is to seek him,” said Reggie Hovenga, an associate pastor at Heartland Vineyard.

Lyric and Elizabeth were last seen Friday afternoon near downtown Evansdale. Their bikes and Elizabeth’s purse were found four hours later near Meyers Lake, which is being drained.

Hundreds of volunteers helped search the area, and law enforcement remains vigilant. But efforts have yet to produce any leads, clues or evidence of significance, according to law enforcement.

Pastors leading the vigil said God is good and has a plan no matter the outcome. But prayers spoken at the vigil largely reflected the hope and belief that God can and will work a miracle.

“He is the one who brings comfort. He is the one who brings peace. He is the one who we seek at this time,” Hovenga added. “He is our hope. He is our refuge.”

The vigil allowed the Heartland Vineyard congregation and the community to experience God’s love and show support for the families of Lyric and Elizabeth.

“It is so prevalent on everyone’s mind. ... I know we are all praying constantly,” said Debbi Jones, 58, of Waterloo.

Although authorities have not declared the vanishing an abduction, some in the community appear to view it that way.

“Well, the No. 1 thing is we are praying for an answer, that God would show someone where the girls are or for whoever took them to let them go,” Jones added.

For those attending the vigil, prayer is an important part of a game plan to bring the girls home that includes mass public awareness.

Tracy McNamara of Waterloo stood at the door of the sanctuary with other volunteers and handed out bright orange posters with information about and portraits of Lyric and Elizabeth.

As a mother, McNamara felt compelled to go to the church to pray and help spread the word.

“My daughter’s 10, just like Lyric,” McNamara said.

The evening alternated between songs about God’s love, care and faithfulness and Scripture reading and prayer.

Many petitioners lifted tear-streamed faces and hands in fervent praise. Later, the crowd knelt together in silence.

At one point, Elizabeth’s mother, Heather Collins, took the stage to read Bible verses. Her words brought the gathering to its feet and hugs and more intimate prayers were shared by people in nearby seats.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. ... Great is your faithfulness,” a portion of Lamentations 3:22-23.

Mark Wubbena, 38, of Waterloo, unable to help with the search over the weekend, was grateful for the opportunity to gather with others who love and care for the families of Lyric and Elizabeth.

Wubbena skateboarded as a teen with Elizabeth’s father, Drew Collins, and helps moderate a Facebook event page related to the search effort.

“This church has actually saved my life, so to come here and be with my church family means everything in the world,” Wubbena said.

The service also was meaningful for his mother, Bette, and his daughter, Lizzy, 11.

“I let all my love out, and I just kind of cried,” Lizzy said. “I met (Elizabeth and Lyric) at a park, and they were really sweet and really nice.”

Staff at Heartland Vineyard quickly organized a prayer vigil — at least two others occurred over the weekend at a boat dock and at an Evansdale church — after the church office fielded numerous requests from concerned people seeking a way to help. Members used social media to spread the word and the vigil attracted regular church-goers but also new faces.

“There’s hope. We want to keep putting that out there,” said Chris Reeves, an associate pastor. “God’s still in charge.”

The sermon topic on Sunday at Heartland Vineyard will address themes related to God and faith in the midst of pain and difficult circumstances.

 


EARLIER STORY

Family of missing girls calling it a kidnapping

EVANSDALE — The parents and the uncle and aunt of two missing girls say they’ve “forgiven” whoever took the children Friday.

Police aren’t calling the disappearance of 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins of Evansdale and her 10-year-old cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey of Waterloo a kidnapping, but Elizabeth’s parents, Drew and Heather Collins, believe they were abducted. The girls have been missing since Friday, last seen by their grandmother at 12:15 p.m. riding bikes near downtown Evansdale near the Collins home.

During an interview with ABC’s "Good Morning America" at about noon Monday at the Evansdale Community Response Center, which turned into an impromptu press conference, the couple pleaded for their safe return. The police and fire station is ground zero for the search effort.

The Collinses thanked the public for all their support. Even though the massive volunteer search — topping 1,100 people — has been temporarily halted, which they approved, the couple again asked for prayers and the public to remain vigilant to help bring the girls home.

“All the group that have come together is overwhelming. ... Just don’t give up,” Heather said.

The couple also had a message for the person or persons who took their child and niece. Even though police aren’t calling it a kidnapping for lack of evidence, family members believe the girls were abducted.

“My husband and I have forgiven them. God has forgiven them,” Heather said. “I don’t care who they are. I don’t have anger inside of me. I just want them back.”

Family and friends hope all the local, regional and national media attention the case has garnered will help. News television trucks and reporters from newspapers from throughout the region have made the Evansdale CRC home the past couple of days.

The families of Elizabeth and Lyric appointed local businessman Craig Ceilley as a spokesman. He said the Collinses and Misty Cook-Morrissey, Lyric’s mom and Heather’s sister, welcome it but feel overwhelmed at the same time.

“No one wants national attention. But if it helps them get their kids back, they are all for it,” Ceilley said.

He said Heather has a heart condition, and Elizabeth’s disappearance has added stress she doesn’t need.

The disappearance of the two girls has also gone viral on the Internet. More than 11,800 people have joined a Facebook page entitled Bring Lyric and Elizabeth Home as of 7 p.m. Monday and almost 85,000 people were invited to join. It’s also been a hot topic on Twitter.

Family friend Renee Wrabek of Des Moines said the more people that know about the case, the more people will be looking for the children and for to their whereabouts. However, she said there has been people posting false information on Facebook that can hurt the search effort and family.

Overall, though, she said Internet postings have been good.

“I think that’s wonderful. The more people see these kids’ faces (the better),” Wrabek said.

The girls bikes were found Friday afternoon on the southeast corner of Meyers Lake on the bike trail. Authorities say there’s little evidence to help find them, with one law enforcement officers saying, “it’s if they vanished.”

But the families of the missing youth aren’t giving up hope.

Heather remains confident Elizabeth will be home soon. The mother of four said Elizabeth has a great smile, a good sense of humor like her dad, Drew, loves to go shopping and a adores animals.

Apparently, animals love her right back. Heather said a family cat patiently waits near areas Elizabeth would hang out.

“I know God is near and watching them (Elizabeth and Lyric),” Heather said, tearing up during the news conference. “We love you! Everybody misses you. We’ll have a huge party when you come home.”


EARLIER STORY

Volunteers find no trace of missing girls

EVANSDALE, Iowa -- More than a thousand volunteers and emergency workers found no trace of two young girls on Sunday who have been missing for three days.

But the parents of Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, of Waterloo, and her 8-year-old cousin, Elizabeth Collins of Evansdale, aren’t giving up hope their daughters will be found. They hope the rest of Northeast Iowa doesn’t either.

“Just don’t give up or lose faith. Just keep looking for them,” Heather Collins, Elizabeth’s mom, said Sunday morning. “It’s not if we will find them, there’s no ifs.”

“In all honesty, (hope) is all we have left,” Elizabeth’s father, Drew, added. “God will bring them home.”

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Lyric and Elizabeth were last seen riding bikes near downtown Evansdale just off Lafayette Road at 12:15 p.m. Friday. Their bicycles were located by an Evansdale firefighter about four hours later on the southeast corner of Meyers Lake along the bike trail.

The volunteer search ended at about 4:45 p.m. Sunday. Authorities decided at 7 p.m. another full-scale search with the public’s help won’t be held today since the vast majority of people are volunteers, including Evansdale firefighters coordinating the search effort, and need to go back to work.

“Officers are thinking let’s wait-and-see what comes up. Right now there’s nothing more to check, we’ve already covered about 12 square miles,” said Capt. Rick Abben with the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office.

However, Abben said law enforcement officials will continue their around-the-clock investigation and search for the children.

Officers will follow up on tips, interview family and friends and search homes in the southern two-thirds of Evansdale, he said. Police are contacting known sex offenders in the area to learn about their whereabouts on Friday and are looking at other possibilities.

“Just a continuous 24/7 operation,” said Abben, who’s acting as public information officer for the case.

Authorities are asking anyone that was on the bike trail Friday or with information to call the Tip Line, (319) 232-6682. It’s manned 24 hours.

Donors have established $15,500 in rewards — up from $5,000 on Saturday — for those with information that results in Lyric and Elizabeth being located. Monetary donations can be made at 1st Security State Bank in Evansdale.

Missing or abducted?

Few clues have been found pertaining to the whereabouts of Lyric and Elizabeth.

Since the girls went missing, the Collins family and Misty Cook-Morrissey, Lyric’s mom and Heather’s sister, thought the youngsters were abducted since it’s not like them to stray far from home. Lyric was at her cousin’s house for the day on Friday.

Three days of searching wooded areas, bodies of water, farm fields and homes have yielded few results. Family members are even more convinced than ever the girls were taken.

“I thought that from the beginning someone took them,” Heather said. “I don’t know how ... unless it was someone they know, or they would have been kicking and screaming.”

Police aren’t ruling out Lyric and Elizabeth were abducted, but there’s no evidence of that either. Police say there are no witnesses or substantial evidence or clues to change the case from missing persons to kidnapping.

Authorities say they have no reason to suspect anyone — family, acquaintance or a stranger — took the girls.

“We’ve talked to numerous people. There’s nothing to indicate at this time that we have anything but two missing girls,” Abben said.

The biggest find early on, except for the bikes, was Elizabeth’s purse. It was found about 25 feet away from the bikes shortly after the search began Friday afternoon, authorities said.

There’s a chain link fence on both sides of the trail in the southeast corner of the lake. The bikes were sitting off the side of the trail between the fences, but the purse was on the lake-side of the inside fence.

“We’ve checked the lake. (Firefighters are) confident no one is in there,” Abben said.

Several boats dragged the entire bottom of Meyers Lake, finishing Sunday afternoon. Divers also assisted in the search.

The massive volunteer ground effort, which started with a few hundred but swelled to more than 700 on Sunday, turned up nothing. Several hundred volunteer firefighter and medical personnel from area communities also helped, with some leading search parties.

No substantial clues like clothes, foot prints or tracks were found. Police have followed up on a few tips, such as the discovery of clothing some people thought might have been worn by the girls, but nothing has panned out.

Since Friday, the search area slowly expanded to include the Cedar River, property on both sides of the river and all wooded areas and farm fields in and outside of Evansdale. The area includes near Dubuque and Osage roads, east to Raymond Road, south to Indian Creek Road and then northwest back to Dubuque and Osage roads.

The search consisted of people on foot, horse back and all-terrain vehicles. Aircraft also assisted early on, with one plane equipped with infrared sensors.

“For a lack of a better word, it’s just like they vanished. There’s just nothing,” Abben said.

Police collected DNA samples from belongings of the girls if needed.

The passing days weigh on Lyric’s mom, but she remains optimistic.

“I still believe good things will happen ... ,” Misty Cook-Morrissey said Sunday morning. “We’ve been searching a long time. I thought we would find them by now if they were just lost.”

Abben said time isn’t on their side.

“Every hour (they’re gone) makes it more difficult on us,” he said.

The search

Search parties ranging from 10 to 60 people or more fanned out across Evansdale and the surround area Saturday and Sunday.

Two busloads of volunteers and emergency workers combed the BMC Aggregates sand pit and surrounding timber a few miles northwest of Gilbertville during the mid-afternoon. More than 60 people trudged through timber, tall grass and over rock piles for any sign of Lyric and Elizabeth.

With temperatures in the low 90s and dehydration and injury a possibility, the volunteers eagerly pushed on.

“It’s (safety) not an issue,” said Jeremy Riesberg of Evansdale. “There are two missing girls.”

Hudson volunteer firefighter and group leader Joe Noton instructed the group to fan out about 5 feet apart — not too close that a lot of ground can be covered, but close enough to not miss anything.

“Just look for something that’s not supposed to be there,” he said.

There’s was plenty to see in the woods, just no clues to the whereabouts of the girls.

Riesberg and his wife, Sarah, stepped over old tires, concrete slabs with metal sticking out and peered around on old fuel tank during their search.

“I just want a clue ... just anything. You can’t give up hope,” Sarah said.

While wading through tall grass on the east side of the lake in the BMC quarry, Amy and Dan Deterding kept thinking about what the families of the missing girls are going through and how to protect their two daughters, ages 15 and 10.

The Fredericksburg couple said they’ve been following the story and felt compelled to help.

“We have children of our own. If this would unfortunately happen to us, I would hope there would be an outpouring of help,” Amy Deterding said.

She said the disappearance is a wake-up call to them, and should be for other parents. Just because you live in a small town, it doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen, Amy said.

The Deterdings said they talked to their kids on Saturday about safety rules.

“I think it takes something like this for them to understand,” Amy said.

Search safety

Heat-related problems and other possible injuries were a concern Sunday as people combed wooded areas. Medical officials at the Evansdale Community Response Center, the search headquarters, said nobody was seriously injured or became ill.

“We’ve had some volunteers that didn’t stay as hydrated as they should have. A couple needed to be taken for treatment but they are all doing fine,” Abben said.

Making people take breaks to cool down and drink fluids was difficult at times.

“It’s so common sense stuff, but people want to help so badly,” said Melissa Oltman, a nurse practitioner from Grundy Center, manning the first-aid tent.

Several people suffered myriad of minor injuries, officials said. Oltman said medical personnel have treated cuts, scraps, a few twisted ankles and bloody noses. Bumps and bruises were also common.

On Saturday, officials said a volunteer suffered a seizure while searching in Deerwood Park. An ambulance was dispatched, but the person quickly recovered, officials said.

Search coordinators mad sure plenty of water and sports drinks accompanied search parties. Medical personnel watched closely for signs of heat stress among volunteers — dizziness, too little or too much sweating and people feeling lethargic.

The Grundy Center Fire Department brought its John Deere Gator equipped with medical supplies and a backboard.

“That’s the reason we have it is to get to places an ambulance can’t,” said Terry Oltman, a Grundy Center policeman, firefighter and paramedic. “We used it (Saturday) to get person with a twisted ankle at the edge of a cornfield.”

Community support

Area residents and businesses made sure hundreds of volunteers and emergency workers were well fed and stay hydrated this weekend, and for future searches.

Donations of water, sports drinks, food and ice constantly arrived at the Evansdale Community Response Center throughout the weekend.

Some supplies arrived by the truckload, while other concerned residents brought just a few bags of chips or ice.

At about 9:30 a.m. Sunday, a representative from Kwik Trip Inc., a convenience store chain based in LaCrosse, Wis., called food coordinators to say they were sending a semi from the company containing several pallets of food and goods — 1,000 hamburgers, 1,000 hot dogs, buns, fruit, bananas, etc. It arrived shortly before 6 p.m.

The gesture, along with the generosity of others, brought Schaefer to tears.

“It’s just the kindness,” she said, while sobbing and wiping her eyes.

Beth Kamp of Cedar Falls coordinated the food and drink effort. Her 14-year-old son, Hunter Dally, along with about eight others are assisted.

Kamp arrived early Saturday morning to drop off some water and see if she could help. Officials asked if she wanted to be in charge of food and drink donations and feeding people. She didn’t think twice about accepting.

Kamp said people and businesses didn’t hesitate to donate when asked. She and her son were out soliciting donations until 10 p.m. Saturday.

Many didn’t have to be asked.

“People are constantly sending food and drink for the search,” Kamp said.

Pallet after pallet of bottled water has arrived since Friday afternoon. Local pizza businesses have donated hundreds of pizzas. Area Subway stores sent sandwiches. Fareway stores sent deli meats and bread.

Panera Bread donated hundreds of bagels, Hy-Vee stores donated about 400 hot dogs and buns and other supplies. The list of donors is too extensive to name them all, Kamp said.

Food volunteer April Schultz of Evansdale is overwhelmed by the community response.

“It just shows amazing things (occur),” she said. “People will come together at a time like this.”


EARLIER STORY

Hundreds search for missing girls; few clues found

EVANSDALE, Iowa — The volunteer search in Evansdale for two girls who went missing Friday afternoon ended late Sunday afternoon with police reporting no useful evidence found.

Searchers are looking for Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, of Waterloo and her cousin,  Elizabeth Collins, 8, of Evansdale. The girls were last seen riding bikes near downtown Evansdale just off Lafayette Road at 12:15 p.m. Friday.

Their bicycles were located about four hours later on the southeast corner of Meyers Lake along a bike trail.

Officials have not yet determined if the volunteer search will resume today.

The search party swelled to about 1,100 Sunday afternoon, officials said.

The Des Moines Register reported that investigators had managed to search most of the lake, and were also interviewing family, friends and registered sex offenders who live in the Evansdale area. Black Hawk County Sheriff’s deputy Rick Abben said authorities have found no new clues.  

“Today I’m feeling pretty good,” said Misty Cook-Morrissey, as crews assembled to look for her daughter and her niece. “Sometimes, when you think about it, you wonder if they’re dead somewhere, but you try to push those thoughts out of your mind.”

Cook-Morrissey said she was grateful for the community support in Evansdale, a Waterloo suburb that is about 120 miles northeast of Des Moines.  

“It’s been good talking to people,” she said. “It keeps your mind off of what’s happening.”

During the search on Sunday, heat-related problems were a concern with temperatures soaring past 90 degrees. Medical officials at the Evansdale Community Response Center, the search headquarters, said nobody was seriously injured or became ill.

“A few people have overheated but nothing to take to a hospital. They just needed some rest and water,” said Daniel Kreger, an Evansdale firefighter and ambulance driver.

Making people take breaks to stay healthy, though, was difficult at times. Search coordinators said people don’t want to sit when two young girls can’t be found.

“It’s so common sense stuff, but people want to help so badly” said Melissa Oltman, a nurse practitioner from Grundy Center, manning the first-aid tent.

Several people have suffered a myriad of minor injuries, officials said. Oltman said they have treated cuts, scraps, a few twisted ankles and bloody noses. Bumps and bruises are also common.

On Saturday, Kreger said a volunteer suffered a seizure while searching in Deerwood Park. An ambulance was dispatched. The person quickly recovered, she said.

Oltman said dehydration was the biggest enemy. Search coordinators made sure plenty of water and sports drinks accompanied groups as they scoured remote areas in Evansdale and beyond.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)