Loss of Angels: The Evansdale Murders
On July 13, 2012, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and her cousin Elizabeth Collins, 8, were reported missing in Evansdale, Iowa. Their grandmother had seen the girls riding their bicycles at approximately 12:15 p.m. in downtown Evansdale. Others saw the girls on Brovan Boulevard in Evansdale, and they were spotted again by witnesses at 1:00 p.m. on Gilbert Drive, near Meyers Lake.
Meyers Lake is a popular recreation area in northeastern Iowa City in Black Hawk County, where Channel Cat Fish, Bluegill, and Large Mouth Bass are regularly stocked where families gather to fish.
Family members began looking for the two girls at approximately 2:00 p.m. when they failed to return home and called police at 2:48 p.m.
Police began canvassing the area and hundreds of volunteers from the community helped search for the missing cousins. The lake near where the girl’s bikes were found was even partially drained. Search and Rescue conducted ground and water searches in and around the lake and trails.
Automated phone alerts immediately went out to the community. The search involved FBI dive teams, infrared-equipped aircraft, scent trail dogs, along with cadaver dogs. Police even followed sanitation crews as they collected trash throughout the community.
The same day both girls went missing, their bicycles were found by firefighters at approximately 5:00 p.m., on a trail near the southeast corner of Meyers Lake. Elizabeth’s purse was found about 25 feet away just the other side of a fence.
Fliers went up throughout the community that was now in shock.
Once the bicycles were located the search for Collins and Cook only intensified. Authorities knew time was of the essence.
Bodies Found 25-Miles Away
Months passed. On December 5, 2012, both girl’s bodies found by hunters in a remote wooded area at Seven Bridges Wildlife Park in Bremer County. The area where their bodies were located is approximately 25 miles due north from where the girls were last seen at Meyers Lake.
At a press conference on December 6, 2012, the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office announced they were confident the bodies were that if Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins dashing all hope the girls would be found alive. The community was in shock, their families devastated.
A community that had held out hope for the safe return of two little girls who had stolen the community’s hearts, was now heartbroken.
Community members held a candlelight vigil at Meyers Lake where a makeshift memorial had been placed in the same spot the girls had disappeared.
The White Truck
On June 24, 2013, six months after the girl’s remained were located, authorities announced they had three different witnesses who told police they witnessed a white, full-sized, older model SUV, similar to a Chevy Suburban or Ford Bronco, parked on Arbutus Avenue on July 13, the day the girls vanished. Arbutus Avenue meets the bike trail where the girl’s bicycles were located.
The vehicle was described as a “large and clunky white SUV” and “old style boxy suburban.”
Two witnesses placed the vehicle parked between two bike trail signs, the other witness stated they saw the vehicle parked near the woods, only a few hundred feet away from where the bikes were located. All three witnesses were consistent providing the time frame they saw the vehicle to be between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
There was some criticism as to why it took six months for authorities to release the vehicle information that is crucial in investigating the murder of Cook and Collins. Mike Roehrkasse of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation told WHO-TV, “Now that there’s a little bit of a lull, we are able to start pouring through those reports and start making connections.
Sources state two of the witnesses came forward during the initial canvassing of the area, while the third came forward several months later because they assumed someone had already told police.
“The one that kind of got the ball rolling was actually several months later. They didn’t know if it would be important and that’s kind of what we want to stress to the public is any piece of information can be important,” added Roehrkasse.
Police have investigated over 1,000 leads and interviewed over 300 sex offenders.
One must still wonder if a killer was allowed to drift into obscurity due to the failure of releasing the vehicle description sooner.
FBI’s Behavior Analysis Unit Joins Forces to Find a Killer
The Evansdale Police Department has said the perpetrator is likely to be local. The FBI’s Behavior Analysis Unit (BAU), has analyzed the case and believe one person is responsible for the abduction and murders and released an outline of the offender profile:
The offender is familiar with both Meyers Lake and Seven Bridges Wildlife Area in Bremer County.
The offender selected Seven Bridges because he was familiar with how secluded the area is.
The offender blends in with and may be part of the Evansdale, Bremer and surrounding communities.
The perpetrator most likely used “quiet coercion” to gain compliance such as a ruse or threats of violence to get the girls to leave with him.
During July of 2012, the perpetrator may have been experiencing stress due to spousal problems, financial difficulties, legal trouble employment difficulties or mental health issues.
The offender may avoid discussing the case or may show interest in following media developments.
The offender may have abducted or attempted to abduct other children or adults in the past.
Following the disappearance, the suspect may have changed their appearance, hairstyle or facial hair.
The vehicle may have been hidden or suddenly sold, altered with a new paint job, or the interior re-upholstered.
Seven Bridges Wildlife Area is Important Lead
Seven Bridges was once a popular 125-acre county park on the Wapsipinicon River, now considered remote backwoods to most.
“I think you will all agree with me that Seven Bridges is extremely remote,” said Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock. “We have no doubt the person or persons responsible with for this crime are very familiar with Seven Bridges.”
They say they would still like to talk to anyone who is familiar with the wildlife area – formerly a Bremer County park and popular gathering place.
While police receive hundreds of tips after their 2016 press conference, those leads now only trickle in. But, they only need that “one” person to come forward with information that can help them bring justice for Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins. One person who may just sense someone they know may be involved or familiar with the remote area of Seven Bridges, someone who holds the key.