Search for justice continues a decade after cousins abducted, murdered

A memorial to Elizabeth Collins (left) and Lyric Cook-Morrissey (right) in Angels Park at...
A memorial to Elizabeth Collins (left) and Lyric Cook-Morrissey (right) in Angels Park at Meyers Lake on May 26, 2022, in Evansdale, Iowa. Collins and Cook-Morrissey were abducted from Evansdale in July 2012, their bodies were found in December that year. No arrests have been made in the case. (MARLON HALL/KCRG)((MARLON HALL/KCRG))
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 2:03 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2022 at 2:17 PM CDT
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EVANSDALE, Iowa (KCRG) - A murder case that continues to haunt so many people in the Cedar Valley - family and strangers alike - remains unsolved after 10 years. 10-year-old Lyric Cook-Morrissey and 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins disappeared while riding their bikes in Evansdale on the afternoon of July 13, 2012. Their bodies were discovered in rural Bremer County just weeks before Christmas that year. No arrests have been made in the case.

FULL COVERAGE: Lyric & Elizabeth: Ten Years Later

July 13, 2012

On the morning of the girls’ disappearance, Lyric Cook was left in the care of her grandmother while her mother, Misty, went to work in Elk Run Heights. Drew Collins had left for work early that morning, and his then-wife, Heather, had errands to run. The girls’ grandmother, Wilma, watched both Elizabeth and Lyric at the Collins’ family home in Evansdale.

Shortly before noon, the girls left home, located a block away from a business district along Lafayette Road, for a bike ride. Wilma would later tell the media and law enforcement she last spotted the girls between approximately 12:15 and 12:25 p.m. A nearby security camera captured footage of the girls in the same area at around the same time.

Between 12:30 and 1 p.m., there was a reported sighting of the girls along Gilbert Drive, just a few blocks from Meyers Lake.

When the girls failed to return home, family members began to search the surrounding area for any sign of the girls. After their efforts failed, Heather Collins contacted police. The girls were reported missing at 2:48 p.m. prompting a search by Evansdale Police that then grew to other law enforcement and first responders.

‘An obvious abduction’

As crews spread across Evansdale looking for the cousins, a first-responder helping with the search located the girls’ bicycles along a trail in the southeastern corner of Meyers Lake. Other belongings, including Elizabeth’s purse, were found in the same location, having been thrown over a fence separating the trail from Meyers Lake.

Additional evidence was found at the scene, but officials have not disclosed what they found. An investigator in the case told KCRG-TV9 in May that from the get-go, it was obvious the girls had been abducted.

At the same time, officials ordered Meyers Lake drained while crews dredged the water for signs of the girls. Lyric’s parents said they didn’t think the girls were in the lake, and they’d been taken.

“If they were swimming, they would’ve taken their shoes off, things like that, there was no sign of any of that,” said Dan Morrissey, Lyric’s father.

As the afternoon turned to evening, a massive search effort began, with hundreds of volunteers joining law enforcement in a ground search that lasted into the early morning hours. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived in Evansdale at 7 a.m. the following day.

Volunteer searches continued into that first weekend as law enforcement began exploring leads in the case, including interviews of sex offenders and administering polygraph tests. Missing posters and fliers, along with pink ribbons, were distributed around the Cedar Valley to raise awareness of the case as investigators asked the public for any information.

Suspicion began to build around Lyric’s parents - Dan Morrissey and Misty Cook - due to their criminal history. Investigators said the two stopped cooperating with investigators briefly as Dan felt he was being unfairly targeted.

A week after the cousins disappeared, investigators called off the search of Meyers Lake with no signs of the cousins.

At a press conference on Friday, July 20, 2012, Capt. Rick Abben with the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the communities’ worst fear.

“Investigators are confident that the two girls are not in Meyers Lake . . . this case is now being called an abduction,” Abben announced.

‘Let this be the day that they come home’

As the days turned to weeks, people held out hope, turning out to vigils, sharing flyers, and praying for the girls’ safe return. The Cedar Valley community rallied around the girls’ families.

“This community is with our family . . . and is very with not letting the children’s names get out of sight,” said Heather Collins, Elizabeth’s mother, in an Aug. 10, 2012, interview. “The only thoughts that go in my head are positive thoughts. The girls will return home. Our time is not necessarily God’s time. And we just need to be patient.”

Misty Cook, Lyric’s mother, described the waiting as surreal.

“It’s just very sad. Every day is just very sad, just crying out to God to please let this be the day,” Misty said in August 2012. “To let this be the day that they come home, or that we find something.”

Drew Collins begged anyone with information to please step forward.

The families addressed the girls’ abductors directly in a letter published by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on November 13, 2012.

“We want you to know that we are praying for you to do the right thing,” the letter said. The families pleaded for Lyric and Elizabeth’s safe return.

A family and community seek justice

On December 5, 2012, the search for the missing cousins came to an end and the search for their killer intensified. Nearly five months after they disappeared, hunters located the bodies of Lyric and Elizabeth in Seven Bridges Wildlife Area, a former county park in rural Bremer County.

Officials have not released how the girls were killed or how long they may have been in the area located more than 20 miles from where they were abducted. Investigators said that information will not be released to the public to preserve the continuity of evidence in the case.

With tips and reward fund donations continuing to pour in, it would be more than six months before investigators would share details about a possible lead in the case. In June 2013, investigators said they were seeking information after receiving three different tips about a white SUV seen in the area where the girls disappeared in Evansdale. The SUV was described as white and full-sized, similar to a Chevy Suburban or Ford Bronco.

In the years since the girls disappeared, investigators have said they believe the person or people who abducted and killed the cousins are likely to be familiar with the Cedar Valley - specifically Meyers Lake and Seven Bridges. Police said they believe the suspect used “quiet coercion” to abduct Lyric and Elizabeth.

Ahead of the 10-year anniversary, investigators were asked about similar cases and possible suspects in the case. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said they could not rule anyone out as of June 2022.

After 10 years of waiting, family members are optimistic they will get the justice they’ve been seeking for the last decade.

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

Drew Collins said that while the killer may think they’ve gotten away with the murders after 10 years, time and technology are on the side of investigators.

“Every night when you close your eyes, you don’t know if tonight’s gonna be the night that they knock on your door, but we’re coming for you,” Drew said about the person responsible for killing his daughter and niece. “And I’m not going to stop. And I don’t think these police are going to stop either.”

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