Investigation continues as families try to put lives back together

Investigation continues as families try to put lives back together

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EVANSDALE | Two years after the disappearance and death of his daughter, Drew Collins is trying to get his life back on track.

Collins and his wife, Heather, threw themselves into the role of activists shortly after their 8-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, disappeared while riding bikes with her cousin, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10. The girls were later found dead in a wilderness area in rural Bremer County.

As the two-year mark of the July 13, 2012, disappearance passes today, no arrests have been made in the case, and no arrests seem imminent.

The Collinses have lobbied to speed up public notification in child abduction cases and campaigned to raise money for missing children groups. The couple is part of Team Hope, which counsels parents whose children have disappeared, and in May Drew Collins traveled to New York to participate in a bike ride to raise money for the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children.

But they are also turning their focus inward.

“A lot of what we are trying to do is put our lives back together, me and Heather and the kids,” Drew Collins said.

“All of that becomes harder and harder as time goes. Holding your marriage together, holding your family together. It’s hard on marriage, it’s hard on day-to-day life. All around a tough situation,” he said.

Collins keeps in regular contact with investigators, and he’s satisfied with their work even though he’s kept in the dark about most of what they know. He’s confident an arrest will be forthcoming, but he worries a killer is still at large

“I hope the scenario isn’t that they do it again and get caught,” he said. “That’s my biggest fear, that they will do it someone else.”

Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock said the case brought awareness to the fact that even small, Midwest communities aren’t immune from such tragedies.

Authorities looking for the kidnapper continue to chase new leads and sort through old information.

“The case is definitely not cold. We are continuing to investigate leads and develop new leads and follow up on information,” Smock said.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has an agent assigned to the cousins case full-time, and every month generates five to 10 tips, Smock said. The authorities have tapped into the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit to produce profiles showing the type of people likely to be behind the girl’s disappearance and death.

“If you watch the crime drama television shows, you will see where they do a profile of who might be more prone to do a bank robbery or a kidnapping or a child molestation. There is actually some science to this, and they use statistics and history to develop profiles and then give us a profile based on the demographics,” Smock said.

“We are looking through what they have and what we can release to the public that may help the public identify people that we haven’t seen,” he said.

Smock said his department is also in the process of starting a website to act as a clearinghouse for information and developments in the case.

In the last two months, a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children team made up of retired child abduction investigators reviewed steps taken in the investigation.

“Initially, they came back and said that anything that could have been done we had done, and we did it in a very timely manner,” Smock said.

They also took an independent look at information generated in the probe and offered suggestions.

Officials continue to offer rewards for tips that close the case.

A $150,000 reward, raised privately and by the FBI, is available for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

On top of that, Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers has a $20,500 reward for anyone coming forward with information that simply leads to an arrest, said Brice Lippert, a Waterloo police officer who coordinates with the Crime Stoppers organization.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Evansdale Police tip line at 232-6682 or Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers at (855) 300-8477.


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