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World & Nation

Iowa girls’ disappearance is now officially ‘abduction’

Authorities on Friday classified the case of two Iowa girls who disappeared a week ago as an abduction after an FBI dive team did not find their bodies in a nearby lake.

Meyers Lake has been the focus of the investigation since July 13, when the bicycles of Lyric Cook, 10, and her 8-year-old cousin, Elizabeth Collins, were found there. The girls had left Elizabeth’s house in Evansdale about noon that day and were reported missing a few hours later.

Although family members have said they believed that the girls were abducted, authorities had few leads and wanted to rule out any possibility that the cousins’ bodies were in the water.

Last weekend, the lake was dragged and authorities began to drain it on Monday. The draining was stopped two days later so that a team of FBI divers from Los Angeles could dredge the lake for clues; the team needed at least 6 feet of water for its sonar equipment.

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The divers began work Friday morning and by mid-afternoon “were very confident that the bodies were not in the water,” FBI spokeswoman Sandy Breault said.

Breault said the lake would no longer be searched and that the divers would not be returning to the water. She declined to say whether any clues were found, but said potential evidence had been sent to Iowa’s division of criminal investigation. The FBI and other agencies are funding a $50,000 reward for information leading to the return of the girls.

“A tremendous amount of resources is being expended in this case and the law enforcement agencies that have been here the past week are still here today,” Rick Abben, chief deputy of the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement.

Abben also said authorities are requesting “100% cooperation of everyone -- family members and anyone that has information in this case.”

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Lyric’s parents, Daniel and Misty Morrissey, have stopped talking to authorities and hired a lawyer. Daniel, 36, is scheduled for a jury trial at the end of this month and faces charges of domestic abuse and that he intended to manufacture methamphetamine. A judge on Thursday ordered Daniel to be supervised by corrections officers to ensure he would show up in court.

Misty, 34, has served time in prison for possession of methamphetamine and violating her probation. 

According to court records, both Misty’s mother and sister have been temporary guardians for Lyric and her 16-year-old brother, Dillin. Misty has also been petitioned several times by the state of Iowa to pay child support.

Daniel stands accused of choking Misty, and the couple has had a no-contact order between them since October 2011. On Friday, a judge filed paperwork that modified that order and said the two could be around each other during the investigation concerning their daughter.

Heather Collins, Misty’s older sister, and her husband, Drew, do not believe the Morrisseys had anything to do with the disappearance, according to a family friend.

But the Collinses want to differentiate themselves from the Morrisseys and plan to continue cooperating with investigators in the search for their daughter Elizabeth, he said. The Collinses have not hired an attorney.

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corina.knoll@latimes.com


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