A decade after two Evansdale girls were ab*ducted and ki*lled, police and the girls’ families are still looking for answers.
Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, were taken from Evansdale, Black Hawk County, while riding their bikes on July 13, 2012. Seven months later, hunters in rural Bremer County, about 25 miles away, found their bodies.
The ki*llings caught the attention of the whole country and had a lasting effect on Evansdale, a town of just under 5,000 people.
Drew Collins, Elizabeth Collins’s father, said, “I think everyone has a niece or a daughter or a cousin, and to them it’s like, ‘It just couldn’t happen here.'” “So I think a lot of people are afraid something bad will happen again. I think it’s important for everyone to find out who k*illed the girls.”
When the girls went missing, Evansdale Mayor DeAnne Kobliska, who worked for the city at the time, said that the case brought the community together and made them “more aware of our surroundings.”
Kobliska said, “Everyone came together. We all met at the community response center, and hundreds of people volunteered to help look for the girls.” “Our volunteer fire department was in charge of everything and sent groups out. People from everywhere came to help.”
Local police and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation are still getting tips about the case and looking into it.
Scott Reger, a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, says that the department has received 117 tips just in the last 10 months at firstname.lastname@example.org, an email address set up just for tips in this case.
“It’s kind of the way cases go when they go on for a long time,” said Reger. “Information isn’t coming in as quickly as it did in the beginning. But we are still getting information.”
Reger has helped with the case since it began in 2012, and after his predecessor left for another law enforcement job in 2017, he became the lead Iowa DCI agent on the case. Reger said that even though he had trained for child abduction cases, this was the first one he had worked on.
Homicides involving kidnapped children are some of the hardest to solve because they get a lot of attention. Reger said, “As a society, we want to protect our children.” “Besides that, especially if you live in the community and some of the agents are from this area, you feel the weight of wanting to find a solution, not just for yourself but also for the family and the community as a whole.”
In 2017, Bremer County Sheriff’s Office detective Jason Ellison joined the investigation. He said that investigators are “always figuring out what tools we could use to help our case.”
“In the last three years or so, DNA technology, forensic genealogy, and electronic forensics have all come a long way,” Ellison said. “So it’s an exciting time for law enforcement agencies that are working on cases like this, where they have to wait for new technology or information that will help them move the case forward.”
Collins, whose daughter Elizabeth would have been 18 this year, still hopes that technology will help solve the case someday.
“I thought that when they found the bodies, we’d have quick answers,” Collins said. “But, even with that in mind, I do think time is on our side. We will have technology on our side. Since 2012, DNA technology has made huge steps forward. So let’s hope something comes up and they can use something left at the crime scene to match it with someone else.”
Elliot wouldn’t say if there are any suspects in the case right now. He also said, “It’s not appropriate for an investigation team to talk about suspects or people of interest.”
Reger wants anyone who knows anything about the case to send an email with as much information as possible to email@example.com.
Reger said, “It’s an active investigation. This case isn’t just sitting on a shelf collecting dust.” “There are a lot of cases in our country where people thought they would never be able to figure out what happened. Time has a way of filling out a lot of these stories. So that’s how we’ll keep doing things with this one.”
Collins still keeps up with the investigation and tells local police and the Iowa DCI about tips that people send him.
“Some people have told me what they think might have happened. “So I check up on some people,” Collins said. “Well, I can only look into things so much, but I keep my ears open. But people giving me tips isn’t really helpful to the investigation. Instead, they should go to the police.”
Collins has led efforts to remember his daughter and niece over the past 10 years. Angels Park, a memorial park in Evansdale that was opened in 2018 to honor those who died too soon, was named after the cousins.
“She was a very sweet, happy, and loving child,” Collins said of Elizabeth. “She cared about her brother. She cared about her sister. She took care of her family very well. She always had a smile. She had good qualities. She didn’t deserve what happened.”
Even though a terrible thing happened in Evansdale almost 10 years ago, Collins is still involved in the community, telling people about his daughter’s story and “pushing forward for other families of homicide victims.”
“So many people have helped us out. Collins said, “I feel very at home here.” “I love this place, even though the worst thing that ever happened happened here. Evansdale is so great. I’ve lived all over the United States, and I’m not going anywhere. This is my place.”
At 8 a.m. on July 16, there will be the 10th annual Memorial Ride and Drive to honor the girls. Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers gets the money raised at the event. Visit the Elizabeth Collins Foundation website to sign up ahead of time and buy raffle tickets.