By Matthew Wilde
EVANSDALE — Hundreds of volunteers and emergency workers will resume the search this morning for two missing girls, though the mother of one child fears the cousins were abducted. Misty Cook-Morrissey on Saturday morning said it’s out of character for her daughter, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, to wander too far away from home. Lyric often stays at the home of her 8- year-old cousin, Elizabeth Collins, in Evansdale while Misty Cook-Morrissey is at work. “I think they were taken,” Misty said. “They usually don’t go that far away.” In the care of their grandmother, Wilma Cook, the girls went bike riding Friday morning as they often do. They were last seen at about 12:15 p.m. Friday in downtown Evansdale behind Lederman’s Big & Tall Clothing, 3524 Lafayette Road.
When the cousins didn’t return to the Collins home by 2 p.m. Friday, the family started to search for the girls to no avail. They called police about an hour later.
An extensive ground, air and water search by police, firefighters and volunteers immediately commenced around Meyers Lake. The girls’ bikes were located along the bike trail on the southeast corner of Meyers Lake by an Evansdale firefighter at about 4 p.m. Friday. There was no trace of the youngsters, law enforcement officials said. Elizabeth’s purse, which contained a cell phone, was found nearby, family said.
Heather Collins, Elizabeth’s mother and Misty Cook-Morrissey’s sister, also said it is not like her daughter to stray far from home. The mothers said their daughters are close and spend a lot of time together.
“They (usually) never leave the block,” said Heather Collins, who lives at 166 Brovan Blvd.
Emergency personnel in boats dragged the bottom of Meyers Lake on Friday until nightfall. Divers searched as well. Police did a door-to-door search Friday, and all wooded areas in the city were combed through the night. Aircraft searched from above using infrared sensors.
More than 150 volunteers and emergency personnel gathered at the Evansdale Community Response Center at about 8 a.m. Saturday to resume the search. By mid-afternoon, the search party swelled to about 400.
“I’m so glad these people are here,” Misty Cook-Morrissey said. “I do think everything is being done that can be. We’ll continue to pray; we believe and we wait for God (to help).”
The search area was expanded Saturday beyond Meyers Lake and the surrounding wooded areas. Emergency workers and volunteers combed Deerwood Park, nearby corn fields and the banks of the Cedar River. Coordinators spent Saturday morning contacting private property owners to get permission to enter their land, and asking them to search as well.
Special K-9 search and rescue units joined the eff ort. Waterloo Fire Rescue and others used boats on the Cedar as well.
The ground effort was suspended at 6 p.m. Saturday, though emergency personnel continued to search the water of Meyers Lake until dark. A candlelight vigil was held at the lake Saturday night. “So far we’ve came up empty,” said Evansdale Police and Fire Chief Kent Smock.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — With the trail apparently cold in the search for two missing Iowa girls, the FBI is sending in tracking dogs and local authorities are draining a lake near where the girls' bicycles were found.
Elizabeth Collins, 8, and her cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, were last reported seen Friday afternoon leaving their grandmother's house. Their bicycles and Elizabeth's purse were found later that day near a bike trail at the edge of Meyers Lake in the northeast Iowa city of Evansdale.
What followed was a massive sweep of the area that drew hundreds of volunteers over the weekend. But authorities suspended that effort Monday, saying it had failed to produce significant leads.
Black Hawk County Chief Deputy Rick Abben said the draining of the nearly 5-acre lake began Monday and could take up to three days. Officials believe it will go faster due to the low level of the lake and the Cedar River into which it drains.
Authorities previously dredged the lake and have been interviewing family, friends and registered sex offenders who live in the area.
Abben said local, state and federal officials have been "grasping for straws" in the frantic search. A tip line turned up numerous reports of articles of clothing that had been found, but none belonged to the girls. He said it was as if they had just disappeared.
"It wouldn't be proper for me to stand here and tell you we have a theory, because we don't," he said. "We have two missing girls, and we have no idea why."
He said the decision to drain the lake was made to rule out with 100 percent certainty that the girls are not in the water. Once that's done, all resources can be used elsewhere.
FBI spokeswoman Sandy Breault said the agency was working to get photos of the missing girls onto more billboards and websites. She said the bureau was sending in dogs trained to search for human scents in the area where the girls went missing.
Chari Paulson, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said 15 agents had been assigned to the search for the missing girls since the agency joined the effort Saturday. She said agents are chasing any leads or information from the public and the family or searchers as they are brought to their attention.
"These are some of the most important types of cases we work, finding missing kids. We are deploying any and all resources we can to help resolve this case," she said.
Abben said the sex offender interviews led to no new information.
"Everyone has been cleared," Abben said. "We have no concerns with that."
Abben said the case is still considered a missing persons investigation and there was nothing to suggest the girls left Evansdale or had been abducted.
A search of a 12-mile radius drew nearly 1,000 volunteers Saturday and almost 900 Sunday, but there were no significant leads, Abben said. With the heat and people going back to work, authorities decided not to do another large-scale search Monday.
"Right now we don't feel putting more civilians on the street looking for us is going to be a benefit," he said.
Instead, rescue teams searched the lake by boat again Monday morning and began the draining process in the afternoon. Officers stopped cars at a number of intersections in town, questioning some drivers and searching trunks, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported. Others passed out fliers about the girls.
Elizabeth's parents didn't immediately respond to calls Monday from The Associated Press, and Lyric's family couldn't be reached for comment. On Sunday, the mothers of both girls said they were trying to stay strong.
"Today I'm feeling pretty good," Misty Cook-Morrissey said Sunday. "Sometimes, when you think about it, you wonder if they're dead somewhere, but you try to push those thoughts out of your mind."
Cook-Morrissey said she was grateful for the community support in Evansdale, a Waterloo suburb in northeast Iowa. "It's been good talking to people," she said.
"It keeps your mind off of what's happening." Cook-Morrissey said her daughter might have tried to swim at the lake, despite a swimming ban. She said the family swims at another nearby lake regularly, and described Lyric as a good swimmer.
Elizabeth's mother, Heather Collins, said it's rare for her daughter to venture too far from home, but she may have been persuaded by her older cousin.
"We've talked about that before," Collins said "We've told them they're too young to go far."
Misty Cook-Morrissey and Heather Collins are sisters.
Authorities stopped draining a lake here on Thursday as authorities awaited FBI divers and sonar probes to help find two young cousins missing for nearly a week.
About half the water in 25-acre Meyers Lake had been pumped out by Thursday afternoon, three days after drainage operations began, city officials said. An FBI dive team was en route to Evansdale and would employ two types of sonar in the search, bureau spokeswoman Sandy Breault said.
Lyric Cook, 10, and her 8-year-old cousin Elizabeth Collins were last seen by their grandmother on Friday when they left on a bike ride. The girls' bicycles and a purse were found near Meyers Lake hours after they were reported missing.
Scent dogs following the girls' trail led searchers around the lake and stopped at the water's edge, Lyric's mother, Misty Cook-Morrissey, said.
Meanwhile, authorities have searched the home of Cook-Morrissey and Wylma Cook, who is a grandmother to both girls, with the women's consent, they told CNN. The two women said they also provided investigators with a key to get into the attic.
Investigators confiscated Cook-Morrisey's computers with her consent, Cook-Morrisey told CNN.
Also, Daniel Morrisey, Lyric's father, told CNN that he walked out of a police polygraph session this week because investigators accused him of hurting the girls and knowing where they are.
Officials began draining the lake on Monday. The side-scanning and 360-degree sonar being brought in by the FBI needs at least 6 feet of water to function, Breault said.
Divers were expected to arrive Thursday but will probably wait until Friday to go into the water, she said. But Cook-Morrissey said Wednesday that she thinks it's unlikely the girls will be found there, suggesting they might have been kidnapped.
"They don't swim there. My daughter is familiar with swimming in lakes, so I don't think she would be scared of this lake, but they don't come here and swim here," she said. "Because we haven't found them anywhere in the surrounding area, I feel like maybe they were taken."
And Lyric's grandmother, Wylma Cook, said she doesn't believe that the girls intended to go swimming.
"I don't think they would have even known the way to Meyers Lake," she told HLN's Nancy Grace on Tuesday.
Cook-Morrissey said she'd be "more comfortable" with the theory that the girls might have been abducted "once they drain the lake and we find nothing there."
"If you've taken our kids," she said on national TV, "bring them back."
Missing girl's grandma: 'We will fight'
Authorities said Tuesday that they didn't know whether the girls had been at the lake.
"We have their bicycles, and we have the purse, and that doesn't tell me that they've been there, just that those items are there," Chief Deputy Rick Abben of the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office said.
The family has been questioned and polygraphed and had information taken from their cell phones, a process Cook-Morrissey said is hard but necessary.
We know that it's a necessary measure they have to take to get as much information as they can and of course rule us out, so we did what we have to do," she said.
Questioning has taken Cook-Morrissey and other family members away from the lake, which is hard, she said.
"Not that being out here might make a difference, but in your heart you want to be close to where they were last seen," she said.
When Evansdale Mayor Chad Deutsch heard that two little girls were missing in his town, he said, the first thing he did was to make sure every city asset that was needed was made available to the county sheriff.
The next thing he did was take to the air, taking off in his twin-engine plane and flew over his town, looking for any sign of Lyric and Elizabeth.
"It just makes you sick," said Deutsch, who knows both families.
In this town, neighbors know exactly how many people live there -- 4,751 -- and the small community in northeast Iowa has never suffered through anything like the worrying going on now, the mayor said.
The search remains a missing persons case, authorities said. No evidence has been found to suggest this is a crime, Deutsch said, but it is a mystery that has the whole community looking for two of their own.
We just want our girls home," Tammy Brousseau, an aunt to both girls, told CNN's "AC360˚."
Calls are coming in to a tip line, Abben said, and each bit of information is being checked out. Police ask that anyone who may have seen the girls on Friday contact authorities.
Heather Collins, Elizabeth's mother, told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell that if the girls were abducted, she would not pass judgment. "We just want our children brought back," she said.