WATERLOO, Iowa — The father of one of two slain young female cousins in Evansdale said he relapsed as he struggled to come to terms with the disappearance and death of his daughter.
Caught between the tragedy of his daughter’s abduction and an out-of-control drug habit, Daniel Eugene Morrissey said he ultimately cracked.
“People told me, they said ‘I couldn’t imagine what you’re going through, losing your daughter, all the scrutiny of the media, the scrutiny of people on Facebook.’ Everything that came at me, I felt like Job in the Bible,” said Morrissey, 37, of Waterloo.
The comments came Friday as Morrissey — father of Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, who disappeared in July 2012 with her cousin, Elizabeth Collins, 8, and was later found dead — was sentenced to 90 years in prison with a 30-year mandatory minimum after pleading guilty to three sets of drug charges in connection with incidents before his daughter’s disappearance and after the discovery of her body.
No one has been charged in connection with the girls’ deaths.
Morrissey said his son, now 17, had kept him grounded, but he relapsed on Oct. 2, his daughter’s birthday, and he went to treatment.
“It was just something I couldn’t deal with,” Morrissey said. He said the second blow came in December when the girls’ bodies were found in a rural Bremer County wildlife area.
He said he was suffering from depression but was turned away from a hospital because he wasn’t threatening to harm himself or others.
“My problem at that time wasn’t drugs, my problem was grief ... I really still can’t accept it,” Morrissey said.
“Anytime someone loses a young child, everybody would understand that people deal with grief in different manners, and it probably doesn’t help when you’re an addict,” said defense attorney Kevin Schoeberl.
He said Morrissey wasn’t a big-time dealer, just a person with a drug addiction and has admitted to his wrongdoing.
“My client hasn’t physically harmed anybody. If anything, he harmed himself,” Schoeberl said.
Morrissey’s mother, Vicki Weikert, said her son is an intelligent and compassionate man who has been bound for years by addiction.
But prosecutors painted a different picture of Morrissey, stating there was evidence he simply continued his involvement with drugs during the disappearance, not only using them himself but selling them for profit.
“He was doing this activity before, he did it after ... There are reports of his house smelling of chemicals the day that the report was given that they found the bodies. That wasn’t a triggering event. That started before that, to have that chemical smell before the report was even given,” Assistant Black Hawk County Attorney Brad Walz said.
“He is getting pseudoephedrine and lithium and other items for manufacturing methamphetamine while the (Tri-County Drug Enforcement) Task Force is following him around ... He’s doing this where you’d think Mr. Morrissey would have some idea that people might be following him or watching what he’s doing,” Walz said.
Morrissey’s 17-year-old son was with him when police saw Morrissey drop a package of fake meth. He said the son was also at a meth lab at a Kingsley Street home when police raided it in December 2011.
Walz had asked the court to stack the sentences for a total of 135 years, and the defense had suggested something in the 30- to 40-year range would be appropriate.
In handing down the 90-year sentence, Judge David Staudt said Morrissey had “affected negatively probably every person” he’d come into contact with.
“Since you were released from custody after your daughter’s unfortunate event, you were utilizing other women you knew to go to stores to buy or steal pseudoephedrine so you could manufacture methamphetamine,” he said. “The fact that your child was in your home when you were arrested on these events show that you don’t use very good judgment concerning yourself as a parent, to subject them to those conditions, to those situations, to those individuals and to that behavior is certainly not good parenting.”