EVANSDALE — Usually a popular spot on a hot summer day, the beach at Meyers Lake drew a different sort of crowd Tuesday. Children were closely watched by anxious, distracted parents as the lake slowly drained, part of the search for two young girls missing since Friday.
“It’s definitely going to be a different summer for a lot of kids in this area, and I think all over the United States,” said Robyn Geduski. “I think people are going to think twice about letting their kids go out the door and go about their usual summer activities.”
By the end of the day, police said, there had been no breaks in the search for cousins Elizabeth Collins, 8, of Evansdale, and Lyric Cook, 10, of Waterloo.
“I have no idea where they are,” Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Capt. Rick Abben told the media at a late-afternoon news conference. “I wish I did.”
The two girls were last seen early Friday afternoon, and their bicycles were found near the southeast corner of the man-made lake, prompting authorities to begin draining it Monday.
Lyric’s parents said they don’t think the girls’ bodies are in the lake.
“It’s like a dead end as far as we know so far,” said Dan Morrissey, who came to the lake with his wife Misty Morrissey in the early afternoon to tape an interview for a cable news show.
“If they were swimming, they would have taken their shoes off” and bodies would have surfaced by now, said Misty Morrissey.
Abben said searchers found the girls’ bikes and a purse containing a deactivated cellphone Friday, but no shoes, clothing, or signs of a disturbance, near the Evansdale Nature Trail that encircles the lake.
Elizabeth apparently used the cellphone to play games and listen to music.
“We have the bicycles and we have the purse,” he said. “That doesn’t tell me they’ve been there, it tells me those items were there.”
“We’re pretty confident they’re not around here, based on the searching that’s been done,” said Misty Morrissey.
That leaves the parents the grim hope the girls were abducted and still alive.
“If they are alive, God is present with them,” said Misty Morrissey. “We believe God will move that person” to release them.
Abben said Evansdale police, sheriff’s deputies, and state and federal agents are running down leads, now coming from other states as the search becomes national news.
“We are looking outside of Evansdale now,” he said. “We have people who think they have seen someone, and those calls are being followed up.”
The decision to drain the lake was to eliminate the possibility of a drowning, Abben said.
Abben was unsure how long it will take to drain Meyers Lake into a channel leading under Interstate 380 to the nearby Cedar River. He said the pond, created by I-380’s construction and developed as a city park, was drained after the 2008 flooding and after a fish kill the following year.
Two Evansdale firefighters paddled slow circuits of the lake in kayaks, examining the newly exposed shoreline as the water receded. Neighborhood residents and some from farther away stood behind yellow crime-scene tape in the still heat.
‘Safe little town’
“It’s just a safe little town,” said Les Jensen, 55, who walked over from his house near the park. “So this is really, really odd.”
Breanna Baron, 22, who lives a few blocks away, said she often brings her 3-year-old goddaughter to the lake to swim or fish off one of its piers. Until now, wasn’t uncommon to see children Lyric’s and Elizabeth’s age riding their bikes unaccompanied by an adult, she said.
“It’s an easy area, convenient for the kids,” she said. “Everybody just wants to know what’s going on.”
“You notice the park doesn’t have many children in it today,” said Jensen, nodding toward the deserted playground. “Right now, it’s like a ghost town on the bike trail.”
Later in the afternoon Geduski, 31, of Waterloo, kept son Keaton Geduski, 7, and Kierra Geduski, 6, within easy reach. They brought a friend: Kaden Karns, 10, who said he rode the bus with Lyric to Kingsley Elementary School.
“I did a lot of stuff on the bus, funny stuff, and she likes that,” Kaden said.
“I just sat straight up in bed and said, ‘Oh my gosh, how do I know those faces?” Geduski recalled when she first saw the news.
Geduski said Lyric, and possibly Elizabeth, had attended vacation bible school at Heartland Vineyard Church in Cedar Falls, where her family and Lyric’s are both members.
“Her mother’s very strong in her faith,” she said. “I’m very hopeful they’re going to turn up. They’re going to have a lead, and they’ll find them.”