Inmate falsely claimed info on missing girls

Published: Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 11:16 a.m. CDT

IOWA CITY (AP) — A serial arsonist made phone calls from jail in which he falsely claimed to have knowledge of the whereabouts of the two Iowa girls who vanished four months ago and warned the search for them would be unsuccessful, federal prosecutors allege in a new court filing.

Shawn P. Gant made the calls to the U.S. Attorney’s Office from a pay phone at the Linn County Jail on Aug. 30 and Sept. 4, leaving messages in which he claimed insight into the disappearance of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins, according to the filing.

“The caller claimed to know the location of the two girls abducted in Evansdale and stated that they would never be found,” according to the Nov. 9 filing by assistant U.S. Attorney C.J. Williams.

Cook, 11, and Collins, her 9-year-old cousin, disappeared while riding their bikes near a lake in Evansdale four months ago. Police believe that the girls were abducted, and they have launched a massive investigation seeking to find the girls or learn what happened to them.

Williams said the calls from Gant were traced back to a phone in the Cedar Rapids jail through caller identification. A jail official then found surveillance video that shows Gant approaching the phone to make the calls at the times in question.

FBI agents interviewed Gant on Sept. 6, and he denied knowing anything about the girls or making the calls. “He admitted, however, that he knows that he can leave a short message voicing over the prompt for a collect call from the Linn County Jail before being cut off,” Williams wrote.

Gant, 40, is facing sentencing in federal court in Cedar Rapids on Thursday for a series of arsons in northeastern Iowa.

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