By Andrew Khouri
8:10 AM EST, December 7, 2012
A five-month search for two young Iowa cousins ended in heartbreak this week when hunters discovered two small bodies in a wildlife area.
The Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office posted photos of the girls on its website with the words, "In memory of Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook."
Elizabeth, 8, and Lyric, 10, had gone for a bike ride from Elizabeth's home in Evansdale on July 13 when they vanished. Their bikes were found about a mile away at Meyers Lake.
An army of police officers and volunteers combed the area for the girls, including an FBI dive team from Los Angeles that searched the lake in July.
When authorities were unable to find the girls or their bodies, they classified the case as an abduction. At one point, officials said they believed the cousins were alive. Later, however, authorities said they simply had no reason to believe the girls were dead.
This fall, with the girls still missing and deer season approaching, authorities asked hunters to be alert for clues. The bodies were in the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area, about 25 miles from Evansdale in the northeast part of the state.
At a news conference Thursday, Black Hawk County Sheriff's Capt. Rick Abben said investigators were confident the bodies were those of the girls, the Associated Press reported. The corpses were small, he said, and authorities “have no one else that’s missing in this area.”
Investigators were inclined to label the case a homicide, he said, but will wait for results of the autopsies.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those precious little girls," Sheriff Tony Thompson said in a statement on the department's website. "The Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office pledges vigilance in our pursuit of those responsible and will extend every resource to concluding this case so that justice may prevail.”
Evansdale, a town of about 4,700 people, is about 115 miles northeast of Des Moines.