CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- In a brief press conference prior to a celebration of life event for their daughter Elizabeth, Heather and Drew Collins answered questions on a number of topics ranging from their faith to the death penalty.
Elizabeth Collins, 9, and her cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 11, disappeared while riding their bikes July 13 in Evansdale. Their bodies were found by hunters Dec. 5 at Seven Bridges Wildlife Area near Readlyn.
The event, which began at 5 p.m. Thursday at Heartland Vineyard Church in Cedar Falls, was expected to feature a slide show, music and singing. Hundreds of friends and family and community members are expected to the celebration, which is being held in lieu of a traditional funeral.
“I plan a lot of parties for friends and events, but this is the most important one I've ever planned because it is for my daughter, who is no longer with us,” Heather Collins said.
“She’ll be celebrating up in Heaven just as we are celebrating her life down here on Earth,” she said.
“It is what she would have wanted,” Drew Collins said.
Both parents talked about going through boxes of mementos from Elizabeth’s life while preparing for the service.
“I saved that stuff so she could show her kids when she got older and she will never, ever have that chance,” Heather Collins said. “She’ll never have … the chance to be walked down the aisle. She’ll never have the chance to have a family of her own. It’s heartbreaking.”
Her parents described Elizabeth as an animal lover, a kind person and someone who liked to play practical jokes and boss her siblings around.
“She was just full of life and always smiling,” Drew Collins said.
Heather Collins said the experience of losing their daughter has strengthened their faith.
“We know God was with them the whole entire time,” she said. “We know where they are now. They’re in a much better place. What happened to them was not from God, it was from the enemy.”
“I don’t know that there ever will be closure,” Drew Collins said, but added it will help once the person who killed his daughter is brought to justice.
“We don’t want this person to be able to hurt anyone else,” he said
Both Heather and Drew Collins will join Addonis Hill and Noreen Gosch in Des Moines on Monday to meet with Gov. Terry Branstad to discuss the death penalty.
Hill is the father of Donnisha Hill who was kidnapped and murdered in Waterloo in 2006, and Gosch is the mother of Johnny Gosch, a boy from West Des Moines who has been missing since 1982.
Drew Collins, who supports the death penalty, said the experience with Elizabeth did not change his views.“I've always believed in it,” he said.