EVANSDALE, Iowa --- Every night before bed, Tiffini Kieler prays for closure.
After months of waiting, answers may be close at hand, though not the ones she wanted.
Law enforcement involved in the search for missing cousins Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins announced on Wednesday afternoon a devastating find potentially linked to the missing cousins case. Hunters had discovered two bodies in a wooded area.
Though authorities have yet to positively identify the remains, friends and community members fear the worst. Officials alerted the cousins’ immediate family about the find.
Kieler believes the discovery uncovered the whereabouts of Elizabeth and Lyric, who disappeared during a bike ride in Evansdale on July 13. They were 8 and 10, respectively, at the time.
“Of course we wanted the girls to come home (alive), but I feel like this is the beginning to grieving,” she said. “It’s something that needs to happen. Now we know. Now we can help them. Now we can move forward.”
Kieler and Elizabeth’s mom, Heather Collins, attended West High School in Waterloo together. She said Collins was her biggest supporter during a battle with breast cancer about two years ago, sending weekly cards, cash and gift certificates, dropping by to deliver coffee from Starbucks or attending benefits and other events.
“Even Elizabeth came and drew me a picture,” she recalled.
Kieler, of Waterloo, ran into Collins and her husband, Drew, at Crossroads Center a week ago. They were handing out candy canes with pictures of the girls.
“They are the most positive, most faithful, loving, caring people that I’ve ever met,” she said. “Even with these circumstances, they were still happy to see me and asked about my health.”
Now, it’s her turn to offer strength. Kieler and her daughter, Braidynn, 14, attended a vigil at Meyer's Lake just a couple of hours after Braidynn called her at work in tears. She told her mom to turn on the television for a live news conference announcing a possible break in the case.
About 80 friends, neighbors and strangers huddled on the banks of Meyers Lake Wednesday night — a place synonymous with the disappearance of Elizabeth and Lyric.
Many at the vigil gazed silently across the dark body of water. Several women tried to light candles inside plastic cups. Chilling winds threatened to extinguish the flames and they tried to shelter the flickering lights with cold hands.
“We shouldn’t be here. These were just innocent children,” said Barb Collins, a friend, of Waterloo. “These girls should have been left alone to start with. They should be home safe in their beds.”
Unlike past vigils, there were no speeches about hope for a good outcome or faith in a hasty reunion. Rather, friends of the family asked for renewed support for the involved families and for privacy to allow healing to begin.
Sarah Curl of Waterloo, who has been active in awareness efforts about the missing cousins, expressed gratitude for widespread community support, adding that the family will need more of it in the days to come.
“Now more than ever they are really going to need your support,” Curl said.
Barb Collins petitioned God on behalf of the families and the community.
“We are gathered here tonight to honor Lyric and Elizabeth and their families through this terrible time,” Collins said. “We pray you will give them strength and comfort them in the days to come ... We pray you would give us strength and temperance to forgive those people who have done this.”
There was also a cry for justice to be brought against the people or person responsible for harming the girls.
“Stay strong. Show your support,” said family friend Jamie Mangrich. “My opinion is it’s a coward’s act but we are going to find them.”
Many have visited Meyer's Lake over the past few months to help search for the girls or to observe the investigation, which at one point focused on the body of water and surrounding woods. The lake has also served as a place for vigils and a place to leave flowers, stuffed animals and notes for the girls.
The most recent vigil also drew new faces.
Amanda Smith of Evansdale and her mother, Shannon Seehase of Cedar Falls, haven’t attended lakeside events for the girls in the past but felt compelled to come this time. The women, like many across Iowa and even the nation, have been following the story of the missing girls and wanted to express their solidarity and sorrow in the face of an unfathomable tragedy.
“After the devastating news today it’s hard not to be here to show support for the girls and their families,” Seehase said.
EVANSDALE, Iowa --- Hours after authorities announced a devastating find potentially linked to the missing cousins case, community members gathered in somber remembrance.
About 80 friends, neighbors and strangers huddle on the banks of Meyers Lake earlier tonight --- a place synonymous with the girls’ disappearance since they vanished while riding bikes in town. The girls' bicycles were found at the lake July 13, the day they went missing.
Many at Wednesday's vigil gazed silently across the dark body of water. Several women tried to light candles inside plastic cups and protected the flame from chilling winds by covering the opening with cold hands.
“We shouldn't be here. These were just innocent children,” said Barb Collins of Waterloo. “These girls should have been left alone to start with. They should be home safe in their beds.”
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, law enforcement involved in the search for Lyric and Elizabeth announced hunters had discovered two bodies in a wooded area.
Though authorities have yet to positively identify the remains, friends and community members fear the worst. Officials also alerted the cousins’ immediate family about the find.
Unlike past vigils, there was no mention of hope for a good outcome or faith in a hasty reunion. Rather, those who spoke asked for renewed support for the families of Elizabeth Collins, 9, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 11, and justice for the person or people behind their alleged kidnapping.
Sarah Curl of Waterloo, who has been active in awareness efforts about the missing cousins, expressed gratitude for widespread community support.
“Thank you to everyone who’s shown up tonight and everyone who’s shown support to the families of Lyric and Elizabeth,” Curl said. “Now more than every they are really going to need your support.”
“Stay strong. Show your support,” added family friend Jamie Mangrich. “My opinion is it’s a coward’s act but we are going to find them.”