EVANSDALE -- Hundreds of motorcyclists served loud notice they haven't given up seeking justice for Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins.
The fifth annual "Memorial Ride and Drive for the Girls" rolled out of Lofty's Lounge Saturday to raise awareness about the unsolved murder of the two cousins who were abducted July 13, 2012, and whose bodies were found Dec. 5, 2012.
Drew Collins, Elizabeth's father and Lyric's uncle, was overwhelmed by the large turnout — organizers ran out of T-shirts for riders — especially given the loss of some key volunteers this year.
"We're sending a message to whoever did this," Collins said. "We're not giving up. If you mess with our kids, we're not going to give up until we catch you.
"This community has said they're behind this until we find out," he added. "It is important to a lot of people that we solve this case."
The event also raises money for Cedar Valley CrimeStoppers and improvements at Angels Park, an island in Meyers Lake dedicated in memory of the cousins and other abducted or slain children.
"Anybody that's lost a child, it's probably the worst hell you've ever been through," said Tom Nichols, whose 22-year-old daughter, Lindsay, was murdered in 2012 and who is spearheading development at Angels Park.
"People say it'll get better, but it doesn't," Nichols said. "It's been five years for me now and personally I think it's getting worse."
Rodger Day, one of several speakers before the ride, said it took him 43 years to let go of the anger he's felt since his 4-year-old sister, Michelle Day, was killed by Russell Fitz in Waterloo in 1974.
"For 43 years I've been living in anger waiting for a phone call … that Russell Fitz is dead," Day said. "I've been living my life all wrong, waiting for my sister's murderer to die so I can rejoice. That's not right. My life has so much more meaning than to sit around worrying about him."
Day said he hoped the families of Lyric, 10, and Elizabeth, 8, also can feel a burden lift some day and thanked those who turned out to support the effort.
"Every year more and more people show up, and every year as this day roles around tips start flowing in," he said. "We do this to keep the case fresh in people's minds, raise money to catch sex offenders who are not compliant and raise money for that beautiful island out there."
Many involved in the ride also paid tribute to Pete Miles, who died last week. Miles had served as master of ceremonies at the memorial ride and helped organize other events related to the girls.
"Pete will be greatly missed," said Shawn Murphy. "He's one of the best guys I've ever known."
Murphy stepped forward this year to help organize the ride and serve as the route coordinator when the original organizer had to step down due to illness. Curtis DeGroote took over as MC.
"It was too big of a cause to let it stop," Murphy said. "We have to keep it going to keep the memory fresh in everybody's mind, make sure it does not become a cold case."
The ride was expected to pass through various Northeast Iowa communities, with stops in Oelwein, Wadena, Hawkeye and Waverly before returning to Lofty's for live music, dinner and a raffle.
Anyone with information about Lyric's and Elizabeth's case is asked to call the Evansdale Police tip line at 232-6682 or Cedar Valley CrimeStoppers at (855) 300-8477. A $150,000 reward, raised privately and by the FBI, is available for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
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