Lyric Cook-Morrissey’s mom: ‘I do want to move on with my life’
WEST UNION, Iowa (KCRG) - Misty Cook, the mother and aunt of two girls abducted and murdered in 2012, said the pain of losing her daughter and niece along with the suspicion directed at her and her ex-husband led her to self-destruct. Now, a decade later she is in the process of rebuilding her life.
July 13, 2012
Misty had recently started a new job and was at work the day her daughter Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and niece Elizabeth Collins, 8, were last seen in Evansdale. She had left Lyric in the care of her mother, Wilma, while she went to work at a convenience store in Elk Run Heights. Wilma was babysitting both Lyric and Elizabeth that day at the Collins’ family home in Evansdale. Elizabeth’s father, Drew, was at work and her mother, Heather, was running errands in the Cedar Valley.
The girls left for a bike ride around lunchtime and didn’t return.
At about one o’clock, Misty’s phone rang.
“I got off work at one. It was like 1:01 and I was walking out the door and my mom called, and she was like, ‘Misty, you need to get here. We can’t find Lyric and Elizabeth. They went on a bike ride,’” Misty recalled. Wilma and Kelly Collins, Elizabeth’s older brother, had been looking for the girls and couldn’t find them.
“I said, ‘I’m on my way’. So I drove, I was only a mile down the road. I drove right there. I went riding around looking for them as well. No sign of anybody anywhere.”
Misty said she returned to the Collins’ home and learned that her sister Heather had reported the girls missing to police. A search by law enforcement and first responders began. And at about four o’clock, another phone call from Meyers Lake.
“Drew called, who he was also with the Evansville police, and called from the lake that they had found the bikes.”
Misty said that when she learned that other belongings including a purse had been thrown over a fence where the bikes were located, she immediately went to the scene.
Searching and suspicion
As the search efforts continued and intensified, Misty said she wanted to be transparent about her past.
“This was maybe on like the second day and we were doing the searches. There was a reporter there, I just went up and I was like, ‘You know, I have a criminal history? And I just, I mean I’m just being really open about that because I’m sure that’s going to come up because I do know how judgmental people will be.’ And I know how people think and operate,” Misty said in a June interview. “I knew that I didn’t have anything to do with this and my only desire was really just to put everything out on front street so that, you know what I mean, we could do our best at finding where these girls were.”
Misty contacted people she had dealt drugs with in the past asking them to talk to investigators.
“I told those people, I was like, ‘Hey, I let the cops know that we’d had interactions in the past and they don’t care about that. They just want to know as much information as they can to anything that could lead to finding them.’”
Suspicion and rumors focused on Misty and her then-husband, Dan Morrissey. At the time of the girls’ disappearance, Dan was in and out of court proceedings facing drug charges. Law enforcement said that for a period of time shortly after the girls were abducted, Misty and Dan stopped cooperating with investigators. Family members said they felt Dan was being unfairly targeted.
Misty said that cloud of suspicion and rumors still follow her a decade after the abduction and killings.
‘It is very hard to escape the mind’
The search for the girls continued for weeks that turned into months. Misty said she jogged a lot during that time and would search and explore any place she could for any clues on what happened to her daughter and niece.
“Anytime I was behind buildings, I’d go search . . . I’d run over to their dumpsters, and like their bins or things like that, and I just looked through everything as I went running. I remember doing that just day, after day, after day,” she said.
Misty called the search for Lyric and Elizabeth surreal.
“I thought the worst. So if it was raining, I thought maybe they were outside in the rain tied up and being beaten so I would stand out in the rain. It was hard to eat because I didn’t know if they were eating. So if they weren’t eating, I didn’t want to either. It is very hard to escape the mind when you, you know, believe somebody to be out there with someone that is wanting to cause harm and only harm to someone else.”
On December 5, 2012, hunters discovered the girls’ bodies at Seven Bridges Wildlife Area, a former county park in rural Bremer County.
‘It’s really hard to believe’
Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock contacted Misty the day the bodies were found to ask about evidence that could help identify the remains.
“He asked me over the phone about a fingernail and what was Lyric’s fingernail painted,” Misty recalled. “She wasn’t painted. If it was, it was super chipped. We’d been swimming all week.”
She remained skeptical even after seeing the remains at a funeral home. Police said a zebra stripe had been painted on one of the girl’s fingernails.
“I saw the zebra stripe on their fingernail. I just said, ‘There’s no way. I mean, there’s absolutely no way that’s her finger.’ Like unless her and Elizabeth had stickers that they stuck on their fingers. She would never be able to paint that perfect of a stripe come across her finger,” Misty said. “I can’t imagine that they did put stickers on their fingernails . . . I don’t know for sure, so I don’t know. I’ve really struggled with that.”
Investigators have not released details about the girls’ murders publicly or to the family. The lack of information has planted seeds of doubt in Misty’s mind.
“I’ve never seen a police report . . . I’ve never seen a report saying that was her, how they identified that it was her, how she died, anything like that. Never seen anything . . . I’m not saying it wasn’t, I’m just saying it’s really hard to believe that when there’s just nothing proving it to me.”
‘I just went back to getting high’
Lyric’s death and the loss of her niece Elizabeth, coupled with public speculation and suspicion surrounding her past and reaction to the kidnappings, were overwhelming. Misty said she felt vilified at a time when she felt sad, lost, and confused.
“It was just really more than the mind or the emotions can handle.”
She turned to a familiar coping mechanism and went back to abusing drugs in March 2013.
“I just wanted to numb my thoughts and my feelings and I know from my past a very good way to do that. And so I just went right back to it. And it worked. It did what I wanted it to do for quite a while. Until I went to prison.”
In 2014, Misty was sentenced to ten years in prison on drug charges. She served only a portion of her sentence before being released.
She said she hasn’t received any updates from investigators on the case since December 2012.
“I’ve never heard from anybody, and it sure wasn’t hard to find me for quite a while. As soon as I ended up back in prison, they knew where I was.”
Law enforcement have disputed Misty’s claim.
Her own theories
Theories about what happened to the cousins have been shared with Misty since the day the girls disappeared. Misty said she’s given up putting energy into speculating who may have killed Lyric and Elizabeth. But she does have her own theories and they involve a possible cover-up.
“I personally believe if it wasn’t someone on the actual police force, or somebody in authority that’s being covered up, then that person is probably dead,” Misty said. “If it was a pedophile issue then that person probably would have reoffended by now. If it wasn’t that, then, you know, how does it get covered up for this long in such a small area?”
Misty wants people to focus on broader crimes involving sex trafficking.
“What I do want people to understand is there is a world of criminal pedophilic people out there that are destroying our planet. It goes through Hollywood, through the government and it is not talked about enough. It is not dealt with enough, is not investigated enough, and if anybody is going to do anything that would really be the place to start . . . if there was any justice for Lyric and Elizabeth, it would be in getting to the source of where this stuff starts from.”
She adds: “It’s nice that they have a $1,000,000 park but that’s not doing anything to stop the people that are doing this stuff. And those people aren’t stopping.”
‘This is what happened and I do want to move on with my life’
Before Lyric Elizabeth’s kidnapping, Misty said she spent a lot of time talking about faith with her daughter.
Faith that has been tested.
“I know during like the vigils and stuff, it seemed like the right thing to do … to pray and stuff like that. But you know, I’m not so sure anymore,” Misty said. “It’s become very hard for me to believe, you know, a god that has that much power and that much love acts more unloving than I do. Or let things happen that are so unloving when I as a human would never let something like that happen . . . there’s where my reality shifted.”
Misty said she finally had to let go of the unsolved crime and think about the future.
“I just began to release, you know, the feelings of it and the thoughts of it and just be accepting that this is what it is and this is what happened and I do want to move on with my life.”
Since being released from prison, Misty has had three more children, something she described as amazing.
Misty acknowledges that the case tore her family apart and destroyed her relationship with her sister, Heather.
“There was just so much confusion and anger,” she said. “I don’t blame our family for splitting apart . . . it was just too much. This is too much. It was too much and nobody really knew how to facilitate it.”
But, with this summer marking ten years since the case that rocked her family and a community, she has begun the process of connecting again with estranged family members.
“In the last few years . . . we’ve gotten to have closure together, talk - not necessarily always just about that, but just reintroduce ourselves to one another.”
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