Missing cousins update: Sheriff says two bodies found in Bremer Co.; Heather Collins confirms bodies are the girls

2012-12-06T14:45:00Z 2014-12-04T18:10:14Z Missing cousins update: Sheriff says two bodies found in Bremer Co.; Heather Collins confirms bodies are the girlsBy JEFF REINITZ, jeff.reinitz@wcfcourier.com, AP and KCRG Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

READLYN, Iowa --- Authorities confirmed Thursday that two bodies were found Wednesday afternoon in a wildlife area in Bremer County.

And the mother and aunt of two young girls missing from Evansdale since July 13 said in a Facebook post that the bodies are those of her daughter and niece.

“We have been so blessed by...all the prayers and support tonight with the gut wrenching news that my beautiful daughter and niece’s bodies were found by hunters today,” Heather Collins said of her daughter, Elizabeth Collins, 9 and niece, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 11, in a late Wednesday Facebook post.

The bodies were found by hunters at Seven Bridges Wildlife Area at 12:45 p.m. The wildlife area is about 25 miles from Evansdale.

Investigators from several agencies were working in the tree-covered area, which is intersected by the Wapsipinicon River and is popular for hunting and fishing.

"I would call it more of a secluded area," said Bremer County Sheriff Dewey Hildebrandt. "But it does get regular visits from people that like to use the outdoors."

Hildebrandt said investigators from his agency, the FBI and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and others were processing the area as a crime scene and asked the media to stay away.

On Thursday, investigators were spanning out to search for clues within the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area. They're using their hands and feet comb the area, placing little yellow flags along the way.

In the park were white sheets at two spots about 50 feet apart, according to a KCRG reporter. The sheets are close to one of the bends in the river. Vehicles in a parking lot/clearing are close by.

A press conference is scheduled at 4 p.m. today to update the public on the case.

 

Earlier: Heather Collins confirms bodies are the girls


9:45 a.m. - EVANSDALE, Iowa --- The mother and aunt of two young girls missing from Evansdale since July 13 has confirmed in a Facebook post the two bodies found in a wooded area Wednesday are those of her daughter and niece.

“We have been so blessed by...all the prayers and support tonight with the gut wrenching news that my beautiful daughter and niece’s bodies were found by hunters today,” Heather Collins said of her daughter, Elizabeth Collins, 9 and niece, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 11, in a late Wednesday Facebook post.

While authorities have delayed public confirmation until a 4 p.m. press conference today following official identification by the state medical examiner, they did note the girls’ parents were informed of the development Wednesday.

It is not the desired outcome, Heather Collins continued in her Facebook post, but the girls “are up in heaven with our Savior,” and the “nightmare of where they are and what is happening to them has been answered.

“Lord we know that you have them in your loving arms and we are so blessed or that,” Collins added.

After 145 days and hundreds of volunteers, the hunt for the missing cousins apparently came to a close Wednesday afternoon with deer hunters.

Authorities with the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office said hunters found the remains of two bodies at about 12:45 p.m.

Capt. Rick Abben said the bodies haven’t been identified as of Wednesday evening and had been taken to the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office in Ankeny for identification. He declined to comment on the condition of the bodies or any indications of gender or size.

“It’s definitely not the outcome we wanted. Numerous officers from many, many jurisdictions have worked on this case around the clock since the 13th of July,” Abben said. “This is a difficult thing for us to go through. It’s a difficult thing for the people in the community, not just the community of Evansdale. The whole community came together to show their support for the family.”

Abben said parents of both girls had been notified and have asked for privacy. Close family members gathered Wednesday night at Countryside Vineyard Church, which has been the scene of regular vigils since the disappearance. Other supporters gathered at Meyers Lake Park, where the girls’ bikes and a purse — last trace of them — where found July 13.

Even so, there are indications that the bodies were found near Seven Bridges Park in Bremer County. Law enforcement authorities of various jurisdictions converged there Wednesday.

After sundown Wednesday, a lone Iowa State trooper guarded the entrance to the 7 Bridges Park, and a cadre of officers with the patrol, Bremer County Sheriff’s Office, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and Iowa Department of Natural Resources met in the outbuilding of a nearby farm to go over plans for Thursday.

Officers near the park declined to comment.

Neighbors said they noticed increased activity at Seven Bridges, a 125-acre wildlife area about 20 miles north of the Meyers Lake area.

“I noticed a lot of traffic tonight,” said Randall Riley, who lives near the entrance.

Riley said he only saw pickup trucks, but another neighbor, who declined to give his name, said he noticed a squad car parked with flashing lights around 2:30 p.m.

“We saw the police presence there today, we had no idea why,” the man said. “We assumed he was checking hunters. We didn’t think anything of it.”

Jennifer Lancaster, Department of Natural Resources law enforcement supervisor for Northeast Iowa, said DNR conservation officers have been involved with the recovery, but they, like all involved officers from all agencies, have been instructed not to comment on the specific location, which is being investigated as a crime scene.

Riley said 7 Bridges had been a full-fledged park at one time but county officials ceased maintaining it several years ago.

“It’ not really a park anymore, more of a hunting access,” Riley said. “Usually pretty quiet.”

Other residents said it is popular for fishing, mushroom hunting and underage beer parties.

The park has been used to dispose of evidence in the past. In November 2007, Martaves Keys went to the park to get rid of the gun he used to kill Anissa Schroeder and Ronald Scullark in Waterloo and burn his bloody clothing. A search diver recovered the weapon from the Wapsipinicon River after a witness came forward.

Lancaster said the odds of finding missing persons’ remains — or evidence of other crimes — increase during the shotgun deer season, when more than 70,000 hunters comb through remote woods and fields.

More Iowans are afield during the two shotgun deer seasons (Dec. 1-5 and Dec. 8-16) than at any other time of the year, she said.

Lancaster said it is not uncommon for outdoors enthusiasts to play a role in law enforcement efforts.

For example, kayakers found the body of 5-year-old Evelyn Miller in the Cedar River, days after she was abducted from her Floyd home in 2005, and anglers and boaters often discover the bodies of drowning victims.

“During recent years deer hunters have also found evidence of meth labs throughout the state,” Lancaster said.

No arrests have been made in the case, and Abben declined to say if investigators had any suspects.

He encouraged anyone with information to come forward and call the tip line at (319) 232-6682 or e-mail to OURMISSINGIOWAGIRLS@dps.state.ia.us.

A reward has been established for information that leads to an arrest and conviction. Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers continues to accept donations toward their reward at (855) 300-TIPS.

--- Sourcemedia.net contributed to this article

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. reojoe
    Report Abuse
    reojoe - December 09, 2012 11:28 am
    I'm not saying they're on your side,. I simply saying that I find it curious that a blatant racist can get his hate posted on here, while those of us who question your stances do not get posted. Hmmm......

    Before you try to say that you're not a racist, you are a "member" or certainly a supporter of Stormfront, right? I'll let our readers (and the Courier) do their own little google search for Stormfront. You've been warned.

  2. whtnationalist
    Report Abuse
    whtnationalist - December 08, 2012 8:35 am
    Let's all use this as a reminder to hug our kids today and tell them we love them. As adults we must remember this is not the Iowa of years ago. Children in even the most peaceful communities are at risk. Instead of letting them roam around town go with them. Walk around the lake while your kids ride their bikes for example. City parks have playgrounds and you can usually keep an eye on your kids. Bring a newspaper, book, laptop, tablet, etc. Obviously police are not able to prevent these horrible crimes, it is up to us to prevent them.
  3. whtnationalist
    Report Abuse
    whtnationalist - December 08, 2012 8:27 am
    The Courier is NOT on my side. I have to be very careful to get anything posted. Now only posts that contribute information not politics get through. In this instance I merely point out problems that Iowa's official policy can cause witnesses. The real racist is the state of Iowa. To my limited knowledge the official policy applies to victims as well. By classifying Hispanic victims as white crime statistics are misleading. If Hispanics are more likely to be victims we will never know it. Iowa does treat victims the same as suspects with regard to race, doesn't it?
  4. reojoe
    Report Abuse
    reojoe - December 08, 2012 7:33 am
    I find it curious that the two people who question whitenationalist's persistent and blatant racism on this forum are the comments that get deleted, while whitenationalist's comments stay.

    Hmm.......
  5. kat4
    Report Abuse
    kat4 - December 06, 2012 5:07 pm
    I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below, with tiny lights,like Heaven's stars, reflecting in the snow. The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away your tears for I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year. I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,but their sounds can not compare to the Christmas choir up here. I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring, for its beyond description to hear the angels sing. I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart but I am not so far away, we're really not apart. So just be happy for me ,I'm now at peace up here, be glad I'm spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.Please love and keep each, as the Father says to do, for I can't count the blessings he has for each of you. So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away your tears, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
  6. Lanie
    Report Abuse
    Lanie - December 06, 2012 5:00 pm
    Very sad news to hear.
  7. justhavetosay
    Report Abuse
    justhavetosay - December 06, 2012 2:42 pm
    good thing your not a cynic. My prayers go out to the family. I am so very sorry for your loss. Your girls became very important to all of us.
  8. whtnationalist
    Report Abuse
    whtnationalist - December 06, 2012 9:28 am
    So sad and unnecessary. What kind of person would do this? Speaking of which, the police are asking possible witnesses to come forward. 7 Bridges Park is new territory as far as this investigation. So a reminder to potential witnesses.that Iowa has a very misleading way of identifying the race of suspects. If you report a Hispanic it is recorded as a white. If police ask you about a white person they may actually be asking about a Hispanic. All Hispanics, no matter how native American they are will be called white. So when asked if you saw a white suspect don't say no when you saw a Hispanic that otherwise matched the description. The Iowa sex offender registry is full of examples of how confusing this is.
  9. River Forest Neighbor
    Report Abuse
    River Forest Neighbor - December 06, 2012 8:52 am
    To the Morrisey-Cook and Collins family- we are so sorry for your loss. My daughter misses playing with Liz and being at your house waiting for the bus. May the girls rest in peace. May God help you through this difficult time.
  10. unigrad2008
    Report Abuse
    unigrad2008 - December 05, 2012 9:53 pm
    Sad. No other way to say it.
  11. whtnationalist
    Report Abuse
    whtnationalist - December 05, 2012 8:45 pm
    I was thinking more along the line of the perpetrator's DNA.
  12. thebigguy128
    Report Abuse
    thebigguy128 - December 05, 2012 7:25 pm
    DNA can survive for years. Initial id's will probably be taken from dental records DNA tests take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to run
  13. homer5r20
    Report Abuse
    homer5r20 - December 05, 2012 7:08 pm
    May those two girls be in the arms of the Lord and the Lord be with the families at this time...
  14. Rvg112
    Report Abuse
    Rvg112 - December 05, 2012 5:40 pm
    Sad
  15. whtnationalist
    Report Abuse
    whtnationalist - December 05, 2012 5:37 pm
    Would DNA evidence survive this long?
  16. JB
    Report Abuse
    JB - December 05, 2012 5:08 pm
    Terribly sad news.
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Help

Tip line

Authorities are asking anyone who saw the girls to call the Tip Line, (319) 232-6682 or e-mail to OURMISSINGIOWAGIRLS@dps.state.ia.us. The tipline is manned 24 hours.

A reward of $150,000 has been established for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Other tip lines:

- Crime Stoppers Hotline at (855) 300-8477
- FBI tipline at (402) 493-8688
- DCI tipline at (515) 725-6010


Donations

For information on donations, contact the First Security Bank in Evansdale at (319) 235-6731.

The Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers has also set up a separate reward for information leading to an arrest. All donations collected between Nov. 19 and Dec. 19 will go toward this reward.

Donations can be left at the Evansdale Police Department, Cedar Falls Police Department, Waterloo Police Department and the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office. Donations can also be mailed to Crime Stoppers- Elizabeth and Lyric, PO Box 1510, Waterloo, IA 50704.


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Photos

Photos: The hunt for Elizabeth and Lyric (part 2)

Photos: The hunt for Elizabeth and Lyric (part 2)

Photos of the 5-month search for missing cousins Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, who were found dead in December.

July 11, 2015 4:00 pm Photos

Photos

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Photos: Missing cousins gallery

Photos: Missing cousins gallery

July 12, 2015 6:30 am Photos

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