Abben said the bodies were discovered around 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, but refused to say where. He said the area was still being processed as a crime scene and could not be compromised.
“Preservation of that scene is paramount,” he said.
Abben said the girls’ families wanted to express gratitude to the community for their support but have asked the media to respect their privacy at this time.
Investigators have poured through thousands of tips and chased multiple theories in the case.
They looked into Cook’s parents, who had criminal records for prior involvement in making methamphetamine. Cook’s father, Daniel Morrissey, is being prosecuted for domestic assault and a series of meth and other drug charges, and he backed out of a plea agreement with prosecutors the day before the disappearance. They have denied any involvement.
The region had rallied in support of the girls. Photographs of the cousins seemed to be everywhere in northeastern Iowa: on T-shirts and buttons worn by locals, and on fliers hung on gas station walls and in business windows.
Residents held prayer vigils, even as the months passed. Last week an anonymous donor pledged $100,000 for information about the girls’ whereabouts, on top of the $50,000 that police had offered.
After Wednesday night’s vigil, family friend Sarah Curl said it was a tight-knit, caring community.
“When something happens to one family it happens to all of our families,” Curl said. “This could have happened to anyone.”