EVANSDALE | The person who abducted a pair of cousins two years ago is likely local, according to new information released in connection with the investigation into their disappearance.
Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, went missing after they left for a bike ride in Evansdale in July 2012. They were later found dead in a rural Bremer County wildlife area. No arrests have been made in their deaths.
Lyric R. Cook, 10, and her cousin, Elizabeth Collins, 8, were reported missing to the Evansdale Police Department in Evansdale, Iowa, on Friday, July 13, 2012.
The girls were seen at about 12:23 p.m. July 13 on Brovan Boulevard in Evansdale, and then spotted between 12:30 and 1 p.m. on Gilbert Drive not far from Meyers Lake, a popular fishing and recreation area in the northeastern Iowa city of about 4,700 residents.
Their bikes and Elizabeth’s purse were later found on a trail on the southeast corner of Meyers Lake about 4 p.m. the same day the girls went missing, but there was no clue as to their whereabouts.
Courtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13
Meyers Lake, where the girls’ bicycles were found the day they went missing.
The girls’ grandmother, Wylma Cook, told the press she last saw the girls riding their bikes near downtown Evansdale about 12:15 p.m. July 13.
On Wednesday, December 5, 2012, hunters came across two deceased bodies in the Seven Bridges Park near Readlyn in Bremer County — a wildlife area about 25 miles from where the girls were last seen. They contacted law enforcement officials at 12:45 p.m.
On Thursday, December 6, 2012, Chief Deputy Rick Abben with the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference, where he announced they were confident the bodies were those of Lyric and Elizabeth.
Abben said there were no other missing persons cases and the remains found were of a smaller stature.
Black Hawk County in Iowa
Evansdale in Black Hawk County
The bodies were transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Ankeny for positive identification.
Medical Examiner Confirms: Bodies Found are Missing Evansdale Girls
On Monday afternoon, December 10, 2012, the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the bodies found on Wednesday were those of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins.
Chief Kent Smock of the Evansdale Police Department received confirmation Monday, according to a Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office press release.
Smock notified the families.
No other information was released to police other than the confirmation, Abben said.
Troubled History for One Girl’s Parents
According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article published July 25, 2012, Dan Morrissey, 36, was scheduled to appear Friday in Black Hawk County court in Waterloo for a pretrial conference covering four separate cases, including one where he was charged with assaulting his estranged wife, Misty Morrissey, the mother of 10-year-old Lyric Cook.
The Gazette said other cases against Dan Morrissey charge him with possessing, dealing and making methamphetamine, and a range of other drug charges that could lock him up for decades if convicted.
The Gazette also reported that investigators were closely scrutinizing Dan and Misty Morrissey and had subjected both of them to multiple polygraph tests. At the same time, investigators said Dan and Misty were not considered suspects in the girls’ disappearance, and were looking into their backgrounds and that of their associates only so as not to discount any possible leads.
Community members held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night at Meyers Lake at the same spot where they’d set up a makeshift memorial after the girls disappeared in July. The news that the bodies had been found hit them hard.
“Just broken. I think a lot of people are,” family friend Sarah Curl told WHO-TV’s Aaron Brilbeck. “We’ve all held out pretty strong that there’s going to be a positive outcome.”
Curl said the community did everything they could to help raise awareness and bring the girls home.
Hundreds of volunteers had helped search for the cousins, and the lake near where their bicycles were found had been partially drained.
The girls’ families have asked for privacy at this time.
Funeral services for Lyric Cook were held at 2 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Heartland Vineyard Church Cedar Falls.
Memorial services for Elizabeth Collins were held December 13.
On Friday, January 25, 2013, State Senator Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, championed the idea of reintroducing the death penalty in Iowa. Elizabeth Collins’ parents joined Sorenson and parents of other missing and murdered children at the Capitol for a news conference where the senator outlined five pieces of legislation he planned to introduce during the current session.
“Trail of Angels”
On February 6, 2013, officials announced that the trail and park at Meyers Lake would be renamed to honor the memory of Lyric and Elizabeth. The trail that runs around the lake is now known as the “Trail of Angels.” The park sitting next to the lake will be known as “Angels’ Park.”
“There is a lot of memorials around the lake and throughout the bike trail in Evansdale,” Jeff Dawson, Chairman of the Evansdale Parks Department told KCRG in a story that aired February 5, 2013. “We thought if you’re riding your bike or walking, it’s a nice way to memorialize people that you don’t want to forget.”
Volunteers thought up the project and put it together through fundraising. According to KCRG, the group hopes to continue raising money to add a few more memorials and additions to the park like a roadway from the land to the island, a gazebo, and possibly a bronze statue.
The city also declared July 13 as “Lyric and Elizabeth Day.”
Reward Hits $170,500
According to a July 11, 2014 report by KWWL’s Bob Waters, the reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case has reached $170,000.
A $150,000 reward, raised privately and by the FBI, is available for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers has a $20,500 reward for anyone coming forward with information that simply leads to an arrest.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Evansdale Police tip line at (319) 232-6682 or Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers at (855) 300-8477.
Donations may be left at the Evansdale Police Department or mailed to: Crime Stoppers — Elizabeth and Lyric, PO Box 1510, Waterloo, IA 50704.
DCI Confident Michael Klunder no longer person of interest
State investigators conducted a painstaking examination of potential similarities between the kidnapping and murder of Dayton teenager Kathlynn Shepard and missing person cases in Iowa, and in June 2013 a state official announced that potential connections were already being analyzed between Shepard’s murder and the Cook and Collins slayings.
“Thankfully, we know for every county, every city, what unsolved missing persons cases they have,” said Gerard Meyers, assistant director of field operations of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in a USA Today story published June 10, 2013. “We’ll want to look and see if there are any attributes from those cases that are at all consistent with this case.”
Shepard, 15, and another girl were kidnapped from Dayton on May 20 while walking home after school. Authorities say Michael James Klunder, 42, took the girls to a hog confinement lot where he worked, and zip-tied their hands. The other girl managed to escape when Klunder took Shepard to another part of the property, police say. Fishermen found Shepard’s body Friday night, June 7, 2013, in the Des Moines River about 15 to 20 miles downriver from where it runs along Dayton’s east side.
According to the USA Today story, Meyers said authorities were taking a two-pronged approach to any comparisons: laboratory analysis of forensic evidence, and investigative work that could pinpoint, among other things, where Klunder may have been when other people went missing. Klunder served about two decades in prison, from 1992 to 2011, for previous kidnapping and assault charges.
In May 2014, Drew Collins and Waterloo Director of Safety Services Dan Trelka traveled to Utica, New York, to participate in the Ride for Missing and Exploited Children.
“We’re coming for you. We’re going to find you, and we’re going to come get you,” said Waterloo Director of Safety Services Dan Trelka.
Hundreds of cyclists rode the nearly 100-mile route in two-by-two formation showing solidarity for those they’ve lost, KWWL.com reported on May 16, 2014.
“They always have to be remembered,” Trelka said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve involved, to remember these kids.”
The remembrance came with a message for the killer of the Black Hawk County girls.
“We’re coming for you,” Trelka said. “We’re going to find you, and we’re going to come get you.”
About Lyric and Elizabeth
Lyric Ray Lynn Cook (courtesy Locke Funeral Home) was born on October 2, 2001, in Waterloo to Dan and Misty Morrissey. She attended Kingsley Elementary School and was 10 years old. Lyric passed away on Friday, July 13, 2012.
Lyric Cook (courtesy Locke Funeral Home)
Lyric was survived by her parents, Dan and Misty Morrissey; her brother, Dillin Morrissey; maternal grandmother, Wylma Cook and paternal grandmother Vicki Weikert; paternal great-grandmother Ilene Weikert; maternal uncles and aunts Russel Bertch, Kathy and Paul Anderson, Tammy (favorite aunt) and Bill Brousseau, Tracy and Denise Bertch, Heather and Drew Collins, and Jeramia Cook. Lyric was also survived by many cousins and friends.
Lyric was preceded in death by her paternal great-grandfather, Jim Weikert and maternal grandfather, Ray Cook.
Lyric was a very special young lady. She was an infectious joy to be around with a smile that radiated with love. In her short years Lyric came to know the Lord Jesus Christ and the importance of salvation through Jesus for the people of the world. She had a heart of compassion for her family and her friends. Lyric enjoyed bowling, cheerleading and gymnastics. Lyric loved to be outside playing — snow, rain, or shine.
Most seen was Lyric’s unconditional love for her family and her special love for her brother Dillin. Her desire to have fun within those loving relationships was seen while going to church, sharing devotions with her parents in the morning and card games with her grandmother in the afternoons.
Memorial services were held at Heartland Vineyard on Saturday, December 29, from 2 to 5:30 p.m.
Elizabeth Collins (courtesy Overton Family Funeral Homes)
Elizabeth June Marie Collins (courtesy Overton Family Funeral Homes) was born at Allen Memorial Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, on July 31, 2003, the daughter of Drew and Heather (Cook) Collins.
She was a student at Poyner Elementary School and was a bubbly little person, with the best smile, who loved what life had to give and all it had to offer. Elizabeth enjoyed dressing up and getting her nails and hair done. She loved singing, riding her bike and playing softball and hockey. She had a big heart and had a great love for animals.
Elizabeth also loved playing with her siblings and ordering them around. She enjoyed going on vacations and had traveled to many places. Many times were treasured as a family lying in bed eating popcorn and watching movies.
Elizabeth passed away on Friday, July 13, 2012. She was eight years old.
She was preceded in death by her paternal great-grandparents Herb and Marie Johnson; maternal grandfather Ray Cook; maternal great-grandparents Cliff and June Brandes and many aunts, uncles, great-aunts and great-uncles.
Courtesy photo Matthew Putney / Courier Photo Editor
Elizabeth Collins’ dog, Gus, was decorated with a rose at the graveside service for Elizabeth at Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery on Saturday, May 4, 2013.
In addition to her parents, Drew and Heather Collins of Evansdale, Elizabeth was survived by a brother, Kelly, and two sisters, Amber and Callie, all of Evansdale; maternal grandmother Wylma Cook of Waterloo; paternal grandparents Jeno Collins of Detroit and Aaron Michael and Sharon King of Elk Run Heights; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Memorial services were held Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 5 p.m. at the Heartland Vineyard Church, 1405 Greenhill Rd., in Cedar Falls.
Graveside services for Elizabeth were held at Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery on Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Waterloo.
Nearly 200 people attended Elizabeth’s burial. Her dog, Gus, also attended the graveside service and was decorated with a rose.
Collins family bracing for anniversary: Drew and Heather Collins spoke recently about their daughter, Elizabeth, who was abducted and killed, along with her cousin, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, in Evansdale. From the Des Moines Register, July 7, 2013
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Evansdale Police tip line at (319) 232-6682, or Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers at 1-855-300-8477.