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Slain cousins case frustrates as anniversary nears

Published: Monday, July 8, 2013 11:23 a.m. CDT

EVANSDALE (AP) — Nearly a year after two Iowa cousins were abducted and killed, family members and police remain frustrated by the investigation’s slow progress.

Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook, 10, disappeared July 13, 2012, after riding their bikes near Meyer’s Lake in Evansdale. Investigators from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and FBI are trying to determine what happened to the girls, who were found dead in December.

Drew and Heather Collins told the Des Moines Register the pain of losing their daughter remains fresh a year later.

“It’s never over,” Drew Collins said. “Even a year later, it’s not over, and I don’t think it’s ever going to be over. You’re hit with something so devastating your life is never going to be the same.”

The Collinses have devoted themselves to causes related to the girls’ deaths, including lobbying state officials to approve tougher penalties for sex offenses.

Becoming activists has been a new experience for the couple, but they are driven to make sure other families don’t have to endure the same pain.

“Most people don’t get into what we’re doing now unless (they) have had something tragic happen to them,” Heather Collins said. “You have to try to do all that you can to make it better for the next person, as hard as it is to be doing what you’re doing.”

Drew Collins said he struggles to stay focused on the family tree-trimming business at times.

The Collins said they’re also trying to help their son Kelly, 14, and daughters Amber, 7, and Callie, 5, cope with the loss of their sister.

The girls’ abduction has strained relationships among the extended family.

Lyric’s mother, Misty Cook, has not commented publicly since the girls’ bodies were found last December. Heather Collins said her relationship with Misty Cook wasn’t the best beforehand, so there’s little to go on now.

“It’s just hard, and it only gets harder,” said Wylma Cook, the girls’ grandmother.

Lyric’s father, Dan Morrissey, is awaiting sentencing on several drug and assault charges.

Not having answers about what happened is difficult.

“It’s frustrating because you want to know, and you don’t get those answers,” Drew Collins said.

Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock said he shares the frustration that there has been little progress to report in the case.

“I’ve never run into a case like this where there is just so little evidence that we found at the scene,” he said. “This case has taken so many different twists and turns as we’ve followed up on it.”

In general, missing person cases are difficult to solve, said Robert Lowery, senior executive director of the Missing Children Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“There is an absence of facts and information that law enforcement has to work through,” he said.

Smock said investigators are actively working to solve the case. Authorities are also trying to determine whether Michael Klunder could be connected to the abduction of Collins and Cook.

Police say Klunder kidnapped 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard and her 12-year-old friend on in May in Dayton. The younger girl escaped, but Shepard was killed and Klunder later hanged himself.

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