- Elton John blasts Russia’s anti-gay laws during Moscow concert
- U.N.: Afghanistan slow to enforce law protecting women
- Heart cancels SeaWorld concert after ‘Blackfish’ documentary
- South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower American flag for Nelson Mandela
- South Africans hold day of prayer for Nelson Mandela
- Mandela not on life support in final hours, friend says
- Ukraine protesters topple, decapitate Lenin statue in Kiev
- Kim Jong-un’s uncle removed from North Korean state documentary
- Thailand crisis deepens as opposition quits Parliament
- Campbell Soup apologizes for SpaghettiOs’ Pearl Harbor tweet
Families of missing Iowa girls await IDs of bodies
EVANSDALE, Iowa — Five months after two young cousins vanished while riding their bikes, residents of the northeast Iowa community where they were last seen are anxiously waiting to hear whether two bodies found by hunters are those of the missing girls.
The families of Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook asked for privacy after being told that the bodies were discovered Wednesday in a wooded area, Black Hawk County sheriff's Capt. Rick Abben said.
Abben wouldn't say where the bodies were found, and that they were being sent to the state medical examiner's office for identification. He said he hoped to release more information Thursday.
"It's definitely not the outcome that we wanted, obviously," said Abben, appearing to fight back tears. He spoke at a news conference in Evansdale, where the girls had been staying with their grandmother when they disappeared.
"This is a difficult thing for us to go through. It's a difficult thing for the community," he said.
Elizabeth was 8 years old and Lyric was 10 when they disappeared July 13 near a popular recreational lake in Evansdale, about 110 miles northeast of Des Moines. Investigators found their bicycles and a pink purse near the lake hours later, but no sign of the girls.
On Wednesday night, about 70 people attended a prayer vigil at the lake, some cradling plastic cups with candles to protect the flames from the cold wind. Some were holding out hope that the bodies weren't those of the missing cousins, though others seemed resigned to accept tragic news.
"I don't want to think the worst, but two bodies. It's just really heartbreaking," said Amanda Mulzac, who lives in nearby Waterloo and was among hundreds of volunteers who helped in the initial search. "At their age I was out by myself, but now it's different. Hold your babies close."
Barb Collins, a machinist who grew up in Evansdale and helped lead the group in prayer, said the community was grieving.
"These were just innocent children. These girls should have been left alone. They should be home safe in their beds, and it's only a coward who would have done something like this," she said after the vigil.
Abben declined to say Wednesday if there were any suspects in the cousins' disappearance.
Hundreds of volunteers helped investigators to search for girls, traipsing through cornfields and wooded areas in and around Evansdale, a city of 8,000 residents. The mayor even joined the search in his private plane.
Days later, an FBI dive team brought in specialized equipment to search the bottom of the lake for the girls but found nothing. Police then classified the case as an abduction.
Investigators had largely been tight-lipped in the months since. An FBI spokeswoman initially said investigators had reason to believe the girls were alive, but other investigators backtracked, saying only that there was no reason to believe the girls were dead.
Authorities had asked hunters to look out for the girls during this fall's popular deer hunting season.
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."
By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- CHELLANEY: China's game of chicken
- Sen. Rand Paul pushes 'economic freedom zones' for Detroit
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- Russian lawmaker wants to outlaw U.S. dollar, calls it a Ponzi scheme
- 'Dude, I'm dreading that I will have to go': Czech prime minister on Mandela funeral
- New Internet security challenge arises for cybercops
- Wife of Obama aide found dead in burning car in home's garage
- Congress creates a legislative fortress for military sex-assault policy
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
Film Reviews and Articles by Kevin Williams
"Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you're thinking in order to make your thinking better." - Dr. Richard Paul
Go beyond tourism's "top 10" bus tour destinations with Susan McKee as she explores the varied history, culture, food, and gardens, of the world.
Let it snow
White House pets gone wild!