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.
Similarities Between Lyric and Elizabeth’s Murders and Indiana Double Murder
The murder of Lyric and Elizabeth has disturbing similarities to a double murder that occurred in Delphi, Indiana on February 13, 2017. Known as the “Snapchat Murders,” two little girls, Abigail Williams, 13, and Liberty German, 14, who were murdered while hiking near Monon High Bridge, less than two miles east of Delphi.
The girls had been dropped off by a family member near the bridge and agreed to meet back at a designated time. When they failed to show up, the family reported them missing to local police.
A ground and aerial search commenced with volunteers searching for the two throughout the night. The following day their bodies were found along Deer Creek, approximately 1 mile north of the bridge.
The girls had gone out for an afternoon of adventuring and taking pictures of nature on their cell phones. The last photo posted by the girls was on Snapchat but the images and audio that followed were shocking and horrifying to police. Libby had recorded the murderer’s voice on her cell phone along with an image of a man walking across the bridge, thought to be the perpetrator.
For more information about the murders of Abigail and Liberty read, “Snapchat Murders Still Not a Cold Case.”
Family Impact and Resilience
Elizabeth was a student at Poyner Elementary School and described as a “bubbly little person” with a beautiful infectious smile. Like most all little girls, Elizabeth loved dressing up and having her nails done. She was a little girl with a big heart and one of the family’s treasured memories is all lying in bed eating popcorn and watching movies.
Callie Collins was only four-years-old when her sister Elizabeth and cousin Lyric vanished and later found murdered. “Just the thought of not having your sister her when you wake up – it’s just terrifying Callie told KCCI News 8 “5 years later: New leads in devastating case bring family hope.”
“I said, ‘But can I go?’ and she said, ‘No because Grandma is not going to come with,’” said Callie as she clearly recalls that fateful day.
“I don’t think there will be a day in my life that I don’t think about it constantly and wonder where she’d be or what she’d be doing,” said Drew Collins, Elizabeth’s dad.
Amber Collins, Elizabeth’s other sister says the loss of Elizabeth has torn her family apart. Her parents have since divorced due to the trauma of the loss and dealing with grief differently.
“She is supposed to be here, and she’s not, so I just really miss her,” said Amber Collins.
At the time of the girl’s disappearance, Lyric’s parents were involved in methamphetamine manufacturing and other drug activities, fueling suspicions of their involvement but authorities now say they do not believe they had any involvement. Both parents were sentenced to prison for drug-related offenses. Lyric’s mother has since been released.
Lyric’s obituary says, “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 – snow, rain, or shine.”
Lyric’s mother, Misty Cook-Morrisey gave birth to a daughter since the death of Lyric and has a hard time even looking at pictures of her older daughter. “I am scared a lot because they have never caught who did this, and I fear for my little girl,” said Cook. “I fear for myself. I fear for my family and that this person is still out there and that they know who we are and we don’t know who they are,” Cook told KCCI News 8.
Investigators have never released how Lyric and Elizabeth died. Drew Collins says he doesn’t want to know but confident both girls put up a fight.
“It’s more than one person can deal with,” Drew Collins said.
Now, a set of crosses mark the location where two little girls were found murdered in the lonely and remote area of Seven Bridges Wildlife Area. Two crosses that still signify the hope that someone will come forward and provide justice so deserved.
More than $150,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction in the case. If you have any information regarding the murders of Elizabeth and Lyric, please call Evansdale Police Department at 319-232-6682 or Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers at 855-300-8477.