Evansdale, Iowa (Des Moines Register)- A somber fog has fallen on Evansdale this morning as friends, family members and neighbors wait for confirmation from authorities as to whether two bodies found by hunters Wednesday are those of Iowa cousins Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey.
The two disappeared July 13 from Evansdale, a small city four miles southeast of Waterloo. The girls last were seen by their grandmother riding their bicycles around 12:15 p.m. Those bikes and Elizabeth's purse were found about four hours later along a recreational trail near Meyers Lake.
Residents in Dunkerton, about 15 miles northeast of Evansdale, expressed shock and heartbreak at the news that the bodies may have been found in a county park off a gravel road just outside their city.
Seven Bridges County Park remained closed to the public this morning, though a state patrolman blocking the entrance to the park declined to say why.
When asked on Wednesday whether any bodies had been found in Bremer County, Sheriff Dewey Hildebrandt said he could not "confirm or deny anything at this point."
A man who lives just down the road from the park stopped at the entrance this morning to talk with officers and take in the scene. He declined to give his name but said he saw hunters enter the heavily wooded park yesterday morning.
Related: Bodies found in N.E. Iowa, 5 months after young cousins vanished
The 125-acre park is a popular site for hunting, fishing and camping, he said.
"It kind of shocked me when I heard hunters had found them," said Gene Niedermann of Dunkerton.
The girls' disappearance has been a common topic of conversation there.
Elizabeth's mom, Heather Collins, posted on her Facebook page last night that family members had been blessed by an outpouring of prayers and support since receiving "the gut wrenching news that my beautiful daughter and niece's bodies were found by hunters today."
Black Hawk County Sheriff's Capt. Rick Abben, during a news conference Wednesday, did not definitively say the bodies that had been found were those of Lyric and Elizabeth, pending identification by the state medical examiner's office.
Jenna Rance now lives in Dunkerton but grew up in Waterloo and said she has close friends in Evansdale.
"This is just heartbreaking," she said. "It ends our hope of finding them alive, but at the same time it brings us back to reality and hopefully brings closure for the parents."
Rance said several members of the community had searched the area for signs of the girls after their summer disappearance, but couldn't recall specifically if she'd seen anyone search Seven Bridges.
Lyric was 10 and Elizabeth 8 at the time of their disappearance.
Another news conference is scheduled for this afternoon. Follow the Des Moines Register website for updates throughout the day. On Twitter, follow reported Emily Schettler, @eschettler, and Jens Manuel Krostad, @jensmanuel, who are reporting live from Evansdale. Share your own reactions to the latest news by emailing Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Des Moines Register