Imagine letting your children go outside to enjoy a nice afternoon, only to have them vanish into thin air. That’s exactly what happened to a grandmother to two young cousins, ages eight and ten. Here is the tragic story of the Evansdale murders.
July 13, 2012
On the morning of Friday July 13th, 2012, cousins Elizabeth Collins (right) and Lyric Cook-Morrissey (left) were dropped off at their grandmother Wylma Cook’s house, which sits along Brovan Boulevard in downtown Evansdale—a town in Black Hawk County, Iowa with a population of around 5,000. It wasn't long before the pair decided to spend a sunny and warm summer afternoon on a bike ride.
The girls set out around noon that day. A short while later, they were spotted about a mile-and-a-half from their grandmother’s house. They were near Meyers Lake, which is where locals fished, swam, and boated. Lyric and Elizabeth were then seen on Lake Avenue, still together and on their bikes.
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Wylma got worried after the girls hadn’t returned in over an hour. Once Lyric’s mother, Misty, returned to pick her up, the family grew concerned. They started calling friends and family to see if they knew where Elizabeth and Lyric were.
After their searches turned up empty, the family reported the girls as missing to the Evansdale Police Department approximately two and a half hours after the initial bike ride. A search began, and local parks, schools, and other areas were looked through. Soon, the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Department and the local fire department joined in the search for Elizabeth and Lyric.
Later that same day, the girls’ bikes and Elizabeth’s purse were found near the corner of Meyers Lake. The two girls were nowhere to be found, nor was there any idea of what could have happened to them. Police worked their way around the Meyers Lake area but found nothing.
The days following the disappearance
Volunteers soon came out by the hundreds, organizing candlelight vigils, press conferences, and searches. The FBI eventually joined in the search, sending trained divers to Meyers Lake to search for the girls. They even tried to drain the lake to find something of value, but turned up short.
At first, investigators weren’t 100 percent sure whether the girls’ disappearance was accidental or criminal, so cadaver dogs and infrared aircraft were brought to the lake as well. Unfortunately, nothing turned up as to what could have happened to Elizabeth and Lyric.
At the end of July 2012, a surveillance video turned up with the girls on it. It was short and grainy, but it placed the cousins less than a block from their grandmother’s house around 12:11pm, near an auction house. The find didn’t turn up anything new, but the video did confirm the official police timeline.
Five months later on December 5th, 2012, hunters in the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area stumbled across two bodies, smaller in stature and appearing to be female. The bodies were eventually identified as Elizabeth and Lyric—found 25 miles from where they originally went missing.
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Typically, the wildlife area isn’t highly traveled, especially in the summertime. Hunters, fishermen, and campers tend to frequent it during deer season in the fall and in the spring. Mushroom searchers typically wander the area. Some have said the fact that the hunters found the girls’ bodies in such a remote area is lucky.
The Morrissey family has been the subject of intense scrutiny, particularly Lyric’s father, Dan. He was released from custody following Lyric’s disappearance so he could be with his family. Dan had been in custody due to several drug charges involving meth. He also was in jail for assaulting Misty, from whom he is divorced.
In 2013, Dan was sentenced to 90 years in prison with a 30-year mandatory minimum after he pled guilty to three sets of drug charges (some were before Lyric’s disappearance and others after). Some believe that Dan’s criminal past was the reason the girls were abducted. Many have speculated on the internet that the cousins were kidnapped and murdered because of money Dan owed someone. He denied this possibility.
Nine Years On…
This July 13th will be the ninth anniversary of the girls’ disappearance. NBC News profiled the crime as one of its “cold cases,” noting the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit’s character profile of possible suspects. They believe that the offender may be a member of the Evansdale community, and that it’s not likely they are transient or just an individual that was “passing through.” There are still no updates or leads that have led to any arrests.
Connections to the Delphi Murders?
Two friends out together enjoying nature on a nice day. They disappear and are later found murdered. If you read about what happened in Delphi, Indiana in February 2017, it’s hard not to make connections with the Evansdale case. Young teens Abby Williams and Liberty German went out to enjoy a walk on a local trail and disappeared. Unlike Lyric and Elizabeth’s case, Abby and Libby’s bodies were found the next day.
Some have speculated if a serial killer is haunting the Midwestern United States. Chillingly, the dates both sets of girls vanished, 7-13-12 and 2-13-17, are anagrams of each other. Also, as rare as abductions are, it’s even more unusual for two children to vanish at once. There are additional similarities to the cases too, such as both girls were adolescent or pre-adolescent white females, out alone in remote locations, and were killed by a non-family member. All four of the bodies were left on land that is typically frequented by hunters.
Despite the connections, Indiana State Police don’t believe both cases are tied to each other.