By Emily Schettler
EVANSDALE, IA (Des Moines Register) - Tensions appear to be mounting between law enforcement officials and the family members of two missing girls who disappeared after going for a bike ride on Friday.
The father of one of the girls stormed out of a long interview with authorities on Tuesday after law enforcement officials accused him of killing Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, the girls' grandmother said.
In addition, Wylma Cook said the family is growing frustrated with the attention officials are focusing on Meyers Lake, which is next to a recreational trail on which the girls' bikes were found. Family members believe the girls were abducted while authorities say the case is one involving missing persons.
"They keep looking at the lake, but they're not in there," Cook said Wednesday of her granddaughters. Authorities "wouldn't listen to none of us."
In other developments Wednesday:
Authorities searched the attic of Wylma Cook's home. Lyric and her mother Misty Cook-Morrissey had been living in the residence.
A computer was seized from the house, Cook said. A laptop belonging to Elizabeth's older brother was taken earlier in the investigation, she said.
Residential and commercial trash from the city of Evansdale has been set aside at the Black Hawk County landfill and will be searched.
Officials said it would take until Friday for Meyers Lake to be completely drained. Previously, officials had thought the water in the 26-acre lake would be drained by Wednesday or Thursday. Also, an FBI spokeswoman said a dive team from California had been requested requested and would join the search.
Dan Morrissey and Misty Cook-Morrissey, Lyric's parents, both have extensive criminal backgrounds and have been incarcerated numerous times during the past several years.
"Yeah, there's history in our family, but it's not a history that we're scared of," Misty
Cook-Morrissey, 36, said. "It's one we've dealt with. It's one we've come past and we've come past it as a family so no matter what anybody thinks about it, it's not one that has anything to do with, you know, the disappearance of our children."
Cook-Morrissey said she worries the focus on the parents' background could be detracting from the search for the missing girls.
"We want everybody in the main part of the criminal investigation who has the authority or the power to do things and make decisions, we want them focused on our girls and what might have happened to them," she said. "You know but if (looking into our history) is what's needed, then that's fine, too."
Dan Morrissey stormed out of a long interview with authorities Tuesday after officials accused him of killing the girls, Wylma Cook said Wednesday. She said the family has "teamed together" and does not believe Morrissey was involved in the girls' disappearance.
Morrissey faces a September trial in Black Hawk County involving drug arrests from last year, court records show.
Cook-Morrissey in 2003 was sentenced to four years in federal prison on drug charges that involved conspiracy to cook methamphetamine, court records show. After violating her supervised release, a federal version of parole, Cook-Morrissey was sentenced to five more months in federal custody. She was released in May.
Lyric's parents said Wednesday they have been honest about their past and are cooperating with authorities as they move ahead in the search for the two girls.
Cook-Morrissey said Wednesday she doesn't believe that anything from their past plays a role in their girls' disappearance.
Heather and Drew Collins, Elizabeth's parents, have minor offenses in their backgrounds, an online check of court records shows.
Black Hawk County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Abben said during a news briefing that the family has been "very cooperative with law enforcement and (authorities have) no reason to believe they played a role in the disappearance at this time."
He said officials do not believe foul play was involved in the girls' disappearance. He also said no search warrants have been issued.
Parents of both girls have said they believe the cousins were abducted, but from a law enforcement perspective, it's still too early to make that call, said Robert Lowery, executive director of the missing children division for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"It comes down to the simple fact that we don't know what happened yet," Lowery said. "The only way that we can find out is to consider all possibilities."
Even after Meyers Lake is drained, it will take time for law enforcement authorities to determine whether the girls are not there, Lowery said. Vegetation and silt at the bottom of the lake can cover up evidence and it will take time to fully comb the porous lake bed, he said.
It's often assumed in cases where the trail of a missing child goes cold that an abduction took place, Lowery said. Though it's important to believe the missing child is still alive, the hope for a positive outcome can diminish.
"It's dire and hope fades," he said. "It's frustrating."
Wylma Cook on Wednesday confirmed that Lyric had tried to run away from home several days before the cousins were reported missing. She said Lyric packed a bag after her father got mad at her for not completing her chores.
"She headed for the door, and I grabbed her," Cook said. "She dropped the backpack and I hugged and kissed her and I said it'll be OK."
Abben on Wednesday said authorities continue to investigate all the tips they receive.
"We're not scaling back," he said. "They've assured me we're not going to do that...As long as tips keep coming in, law enforcement will be here with boots on the ground."
Des Moines Register reporters Jeff Eckhoff and Grant Rodgers contributed to this report.
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