Lyric R. Cook & Elizabeth Collins

855-300-TIPS (8477)

Guaranteed anonymity

Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers announced on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, a new $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Case Summary / Timeline compiled by Jody Ewing

Lyric R. Cook, 10, and her cousin, Elizabeth Collins, 8, were reported missing to the Evansdale Police Department in Evansdale, Iowa, on Friday, July 13, 2012.

The girls were seen at about 12:23 p.m. July 13 on Brovan Boulevard in Evansdale, and then spotted between 12:30 and 1 p.m. on Gilbert Drive not far from Meyers Lake, a popular fishing and recreation area in the northeastern Iowa city of about 4,700 residents.

Their bikes and Elizabeth’s purse were later found on a trail on the southeast corner of Meyers Lake about 4 p.m. the same day the girls went missing, but there were no clues as to their whereabouts.

Meyers LakeCourtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13
Meyers Lake, where the girls’ bicycles were found the day they disappeared.

The girls’ grandmother, Wylma Cook, told the press she last saw the girls riding their bikes near downtown Evansdale about 12:15 p.m. July 13.

On Wednesday, December 5, 2012, hunters came across two deceased bodies in the Seven Bridges Wildlife Park near Readlyn in Bremer County — a wildlife area about 25 miles from where the girls were last seen. They contacted law enforcement officials at 12:45 p.m.

On Thursday, December 6, 2012, Chief Deputy Rick Abben with the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference to announce officials were confident the bodies were those of Lyric and Elizabeth.

Abben said there were no other missing persons cases and the remains found were of a smaller stature.

Black Hawk County in Iowa
Black Hawk County in Iowa

Evansdale in Black Hawk CountyEvansdale in Black Hawk County

The bodies were transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Ankeny for positive identification.

Medical Examiner Confirms: Bodies Found are Missing Evansdale Girls

On Monday afternoon, December 10, 2012, the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the bodies found on Wednesday were those of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins.

Chief Kent Smock of the Evansdale Police Department received confirmation Monday, according to a Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office press release.

Smock notified the families.

No other information was released to police other than the confirmation, Abben said.

Troubled History for One Girl’s Parents

According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article published July 25, 2012, Dan Morrissey, 36, was scheduled to appear Friday in Black Hawk County court in Waterloo for a pretrial conference covering four separate cases, including one where he was charged with assaulting his estranged wife, Misty Morrissey, the mother of 10-year-old Lyric Cook.

The Gazette said other cases against Dan Morrissey charge him with possessing, dealing and making methamphetamine, and a range of other drug charges that could lock him up for decades if convicted.

Evansdale Reward poster

Download the Reward Poster (Courtesy WCF Courier)

The Gazette also reported that investigators were closely scrutinizing Dan and Misty Morrissey and had subjected both of them to multiple polygraph tests. At the same time, investigators said Dan and Misty were not considered suspects in the girls’ disappearance, and were looking into their backgrounds and that of their associates only so as not to discount any possible leads.

“Just Broken”

Community members held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night at Meyers Lake at the same spot where they’d set up a makeshift memorial after the girls disappeared in July. The news that the bodies had been found hit them hard.

“Just broken. I think a lot of people are,” family friend Sarah Curl told WHO-TV’s Aaron Brilbeck. “We’ve all held out pretty strong that there’s going to be a positive outcome.”

Curl said the community did everything they could to help raise awareness and bring the girls home.

Hundreds of volunteers had helped search for the cousins, and the lake near where their bicycles were found had been partially drained.

The girls’ families asked for privacy.

Funeral services for Lyric Cook were held at 2 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Heartland Vineyard Church Cedar Falls.

Memorial services for Elizabeth Collins were held December 13.

On Friday, January 25, 2013, State Senator Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, championed the idea of reintroducing the death penalty in Iowa. Elizabeth Collins’ parents joined Sorenson and parents of other missing and murdered children at the Capitol for a news conference where the senator outlined five pieces of legislation he planned to introduce during the current session.

“Trail of Angels”

On February 6, 2013, officials announced that the trail and park at Meyers Lake would be renamed to honor the memory of Lyric and Elizabeth. The trail that runs around the lake is now known as the “Trail of Angels.” The park sitting next to the lake will be known as “Angels’ Park.”

“There is a lot of memorials around the lake and throughout the bike trail in Evansdale,” Jeff Dawson, Chairman of the Evansdale Parks Department told KCRG in a story that aired February 5, 2013. “We thought if you’re riding your bike or walking, it’s a nice way to memorialize people that you don’t want to forget.”

Volunteers thought up the project and put it together through fundraising. According to KCRG, the group hopes to continue raising money to add a few more memorials and additions to the park like a roadway from the land to the island, a gazebo, and possibly a bronze statue.

The city also declared July 13 as “Lyric and Elizabeth Day.”

New Tip in Case Provides Hope

Six months after Lyric and Elizabeth were found, authorities announced on Monday, June 24, 2013, they had three separate witnesses who said they saw a white, older-model, full-size SUV-type vehicle — similar to a Chevy Suburban or a Ford Bronco — parked on Arbutus Avenue on July 13. The street meets up with the bike trail where the girls’ bikes were found.

Two witnesses said they’d seen the white SUV parked between two bike trail signs. According to KWWL Channel 7, the other witness told police they saw the vehicle parked near the woods on the east side of the lake — only a few hundred feet from where the bikes were found.

All three witnesses said they’d seen the SUV sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on July 13, 2012, the same day and approximate time period when the girls went missing, WHOTV Channel 13 reported on June 24, 2012.

“There (are) just a lot of reports, a lot of information to read through,” said Mike Roehrkasse with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in both the WHOTV and KWWL reports. “Now that there’s a little bit of a lull, we are able to start poring through those reports and make those connections.”

Witnessed described the vehicle as “a large and clunky white SUV” and “an old-style boxy suburban.”

Though two of the witnesses came forward the information while canvassing, the third came several months later because the person assumed someone had already told police about it.

“The one that kind of got the ball rolling was actually several months later. They didn’t know if it would be important and that’s kind of what we want to stress to the public is any piece of information can be important,” Roehrkasse said.

DCI Confident Michael Klunder no longer person of interest

State investigators conducted a painstaking examination of potential similarities between the kidnapping and murder of Dayton teenager Kathlynn Shepard and missing person cases in Iowa, and in June 2013 a state official announced that potential connections were already being analyzed between Shepard’s murder and the Cook and Collins slayings.

“Thankfully, we know for every county, every city, what unsolved missing persons cases they have,” said Gerard Meyers, assistant director of field operations of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in a USA Today story published June 10, 2013. “We’ll want to look and see if there are any attributes from those cases that are at all consistent with this case.”

Michael Klunder mugshot

On May 14, 2014, police ruled out Michael Klunder as a suspect in the cousins’ 2012 death.

Shepard, 15, and another girl were kidnapped from Dayton on May 20 while walking home after school. Authorities say Michael James Klunder, 42, took the girls to a hog confinement lot where he worked and zip-tied their hands. The other girl managed to escape when Klunder took Shepard to another part of the property, police say. Fishermen found Shepard’s body Friday night, June 7, 2013, in the Des Moines River about 15 to 20 miles downriver from where it runs along Dayton’s east side.

According to the USA Today story, Meyers said authorities were taking a two-pronged approach to any comparisons: laboratory analysis of forensic evidence, and investigative work that could pinpoint, among other things, where Klunder may have been when other people went missing. Klunder served about two decades in prison, from 1992 to 2011, for previous kidnapping and assault charges.

On May 14, 2014, DCI Special Agent Mike Roehrkasse with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said the DCI is pretty confident Michael Klunder is no longer a person of interest in the [Cook/Collins] case.

“We’re coming for you”

Also in May 2014, Drew Collins and Waterloo Director of Safety Services Dan Trelka traveled to Utica, New York, to participate in the Ride for Missing and Exploited Children.

“We’re coming for you. We’re going to find you, and we’re going to come get you,” said Waterloo Director of Safety Services Dan Trelka.

Hundreds of cyclists rode the nearly 100-mile route in two-by-two formation showing solidarity for those they’ve lost, KWWL.com reported on May 16, 2014.

“They always have to be remembered,” Trelka said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve involved, to remember these kids.”

The remembrance came with a message for the killer of the Black Hawk County girls.

“We’re coming for you,” Trelka said. “We’re going to find you, and we’re going to come get you.”

According to a July 11, 2014 report by KWWL’s Bob Waters, the reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case had reached $170,000.

On Thursday, August 21, 2014, Evansdale police unveiled a new web page — http://evansdalepolice.org/latestonlyricandelizabeth.php — to act as a clearinghouse for information on the unsolved case.

During a press conference that day, police said they believed the person who abducted the cousins was likely local, the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported Aug. 22, 2014. The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, which develops profiles of suspects, had released new details drawn from the FBI study and unveiled those conclusions on the Evansdale police web page for Lyric and Elizabeth, the Courier said.

The offender profile concluded, in part, that:

  • The offender is familiar with both Meyers Lake/Angels Park in Evansdale and Seven Bridges Wildlife Area in Bremer County;
  • The suspect chose Seven Bridges because he or she was familiar with the area and knew it was secluded;
  • The offender blends in with and may be part of the Evansdale, Bremer and surrounding communities;
  • The suspect likely used “quiet coercion” to gain the girls’ compliance into leaving Meyers Lake, using a ruse or threats of violence, and that other possible characteristics include:
  • The suspect may have been experiencing stress related to legal troubles, spousal problems, employment difficulties, financial strain or mental health issues in July 2012;
  • The suspect may avoid discussing the case or showing interest in the matter but is likely following developments in the media;
  • The offender may have attempted to abduct children or adults in the past;
  • Following the disappearance, the suspect may have altered his or her physical appearance, such as changing hair style and facial hair. The offender’s vehicle may also have been altered with a new paint job or re-upholstery.

Analysts’ experience with prior abduction cases points to one person being involved, but there are cases where more than one person was involved, The Courier said.

Of the $170,500 reward, officials said $150,000 was raised privately and by the FBI for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Additionally, Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers offered a $20,500 reward for anyone coming forward with information that simply leads to an arrest.

Those with information were encouraged to call the Evansdale police tip line at 232-6682 or Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers at (855) 300-8477.

Investigators focus on Seven Bridges Wildlife Area

In a press conference held at the Evansdale City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, Evansdale Chief of Police Kent Smock said authorities were focusing their efforts on anyone who might be familiar with the remote Bremer County woodland where Lyric and Elizabeth were found in December 2012.

Smock made a plea to the public to identify anyone they believe is familiar with the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area.

kent-smock-CRG-2-3-2015Courtesy photo Liz Martin/The Gazette
Evansdale Chief of Police Kent Smock updates the media on the status of the Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook case during a press conference at the Evansdale City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. Full story at The Gazette

“I think you will all agree with me that Seven Bridges is extremely remote,” Smock said. “We have no doubt that the person or persons responsible with this crime are very familiar with Seven Bridges.”

Investigators traveled to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia to discuss the case, and Smock said federal authorities were impressed with the investigators’ efforts thus far. They were also in agreement that Seven Bridges Wildlife Area represented an important part of the case, The Gazette reported Feb. 3, 2015.

Smock said they want to speak with anyone who is familiar with the wildlife area — which was formerly a Bremer County park and a popular gathering place — in order to eliminate them as suspects.

Smock was fired from his position as Evansdale chief of police on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

In a Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier story published July 26, 2015, interim Evansdale Police Chief Jeff Jensen said the Evansdale cousins case was never to be considered a ‘cold case.’

WHO-TV reported Feb. 5, 2016, that investigators were still fielding tips in the ‘Evansdale Cousins Case.’

Events and Murals Honor Lyric and Elizabeth, Investigators Follow New Lead

As the four-year anniversary approached for Lyric and Elizabeth, officials shared tips to prevent child abduction, and urged parents to establish a code word with their kids.

The city of Evansdale planned a child safety day, and volunteers prepared for the Fourth Memorial Ride and Drive.

In early February 2017, artists Jeff Sonksen and Christopher Leet — both friends with Drew Collins — unveiled murals they’d created to shed light on the girls’ cold case. Sonksen and Leet had painted a tribute to two angels, with wings, to serve as a reminder that Lyric and Elizabeth forever soar in the hearts of many.

In July 2017, hundreds rode in the Fifth Memorial Ride and Drive.

On July 12, 2017, KCCI.com reported that, to date, authorities had interviewed more than 1,000 people and looked into more than 300 sex offenders, and that a new lead involved the investigation of an Ankeny sex offender.

Jeff Altmayer, 58, was charged with trying to entice children in Jasper, Monona and Grundy County by offering them $100 to get in his van. Altmayer was arrested in November and accused of trying to lure a 6-year-old girl in his car near Onawa. KWWL reported July 12, 2017, that Altmayer is also suspected in two other incidents — one happening last June near the Dike City Park, and another a couple weeks later near Clay Street Park in Cedar Falls. When asked about Altmayer on July 12, 2017, Roehrkasse told KWWL, “The most I would say is that he is one of our leads and I will leave it at that.”

KCCI said court records show Altmayer was working as a traveling automobile damage field inspector.

“It’s very concerning to us when you have an individual like that that has the access that he does through his employment at the time to basically roam the state or roam the Midwest,” Mitch Mortvedt, Head of Field Operations for the Iowa DCI, said of Altmayer.

Mortvedt also said authorities do not believe Lyric’s parents were involved in the girls’ deaths. Dan and Misty Morrissey were sent to prison on unrelated drug charges after the girls disappeared, and Mortvedt said Misty Morrissey has since been released.

As of July 2017, two people have confessed to the crime, but KCCI said authorities eliminated them after discovering the individuals had no intimate details about the case.

Investigators have yet to share publicly how Lyric and Elizabeth died.

About Lyric and Elizabeth

Lyric Ray Lynn Cook (courtesy Locke Funeral Home) was born on October 2, 2001, in Waterloo to Dan and Misty Morrissey. She attended Kingsley Elementary School and was 10 years old. Lyric passed away on Friday, July 13, 2012.

Lyric Cook (courtesy Locke Funeral Home)

Lyric Cook (courtesy Locke Funeral Home)

Lyric was survived by her parents, Dan and Misty Morrissey; her brother, Dillin Morrissey; maternal grandmother, Wylma Cook and paternal grandmother Vicki Weikert; paternal great-grandmother Ilene Weikert; maternal uncles and aunts Russel Bertch, Kathy and Paul Anderson, Tammy (favorite aunt) and Bill Brousseau, Tracy and Denise Bertch, Heather and Drew Collins, and Jeramia Cook. Lyric was also survived by many cousins and friends.

Lyric was preceded in death by her paternal great-grandfather, Jim Weikert and maternal grandfather, Ray Cook.

Lyric was a very special young lady. She was an infectious joy to be around with a smile that radiated with love. In her short years Lyric came to know the Lord Jesus Christ and the importance of salvation through Jesus for the people of the world. She had a heart of compassion for her family and her friends. Lyric enjoyed bowling, cheerleading and gymnastics. Lyric loved to be outside playing — snow, rain, or shine.

Most seen was Lyric’s unconditional love for her family and her special love for her brother Dillin. Her desire to have fun within those loving relationships was seen while going to church, sharing devotions with her parents in the morning and card games with her grandmother in the afternoons.

Memorial services were held at Heartland Vineyard on Saturday, December 29, from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

Elizabeth Collins (courtesy Overton Funeral Home)

Elizabeth Collins (courtesy Overton Family Funeral Homes)

Elizabeth June Marie Collins (courtesy Overton Family Funeral Homes) was born at Allen Memorial Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, on July 31, 2003, the daughter of Drew and Heather (Cook) Collins.

She was a student at Poyner Elementary School and was a bubbly little person, with the best smile, who loved what life had to give and all it had to offer. Elizabeth enjoyed dressing up and getting her nails and hair done. She loved singing, riding her bike and playing softball and hockey. She had a big heart and had a great love for animals.

Elizabeth also loved playing with her siblings and ordering them around. She enjoyed going on vacations and had traveled to many places. Many times were treasured as a family lying in bed eating popcorn and watching movies.

Elizabeth passed away on Friday, July 13, 2012. She was eight years old.

elizabeth-collins-dog-gus-wcfcCourtesy photo Matthew Putney / Courier Photo Editor
Elizabeth Collins’ dog, Gus, was decorated with a rose at the graveside service for Elizabeth at Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery on Saturday, May 4, 2013.

She was preceded in death by her paternal great-grandparents Herb and Marie Johnson; maternal grandfather Ray Cook; maternal great-grandparents Cliff and June Brandes and many aunts, uncles, great-aunts and great-uncles.

In addition to her parents, Drew and Heather Collins of Evansdale, Elizabeth was survived by a brother, Kelly, and two sisters, Amber and Callie, all of Evansdale; maternal grandmother Wylma Cook of Waterloo; paternal grandparents Jeno Collins of Detroit and Aaron Michael and Sharon King of Elk Run Heights; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

elizabeth-collins-gravestone-putney-at-wcfcCourtesy photo MATTHEW PUTNEY / WCF Courier
The headstone of Elizabeth Collins is memorialized with family photos at Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery.

Memorial services were held Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 5 p.m. at the Heartland Vineyard Church, 1405 Greenhill Rd., in Cedar Falls.

Graveside services for Elizabeth were held at Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery on Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Waterloo.

Nearly 200 people attended Elizabeth’s burial. Her dog, Gus, also attended the graveside service and was decorated with a rose.

Information Needed:

If you have any information about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and deaths of Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins, please call the Evansdale Police tip line at 232-6682 or Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers 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.

Additionally, Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers has offered a $50,000 reward for anyone coming forward with information that simply leads to an arrest.

Vigil Held for 3 Girls, Gone too Soon, by Bevan J. Lucas, KGAN, Airdate: March 12, 2015

Iowa starts year-long process to be CART-certified, by Kristyna Engdahl, KETV.com
Airdate: Feb. 10, 2015

DCI Asst. Director Talks About Evansdale Cousins’ Murder Investigation, by Kelly Maricle, WHOTV.com, Airdate: January 29, 2015

EVANSDALE MURDERS: Police Rule Out Klunder, by Sam Hoyle, WHOTV.com, Airdate May 14, 2014

ONE YEAR: Parents ‘Happy’ With Investigation, by Staff, WHOTV.com, Airdate July 12, 2013
Sources and other References: