Public Safety

Tip on Evansdale killings is 'old information'

Investigation of train murder-suicide leads to search

On May 4, 2013, Wylma Cook, right, hugs her grandson, Kelly Collins, left, at a graveside service for Elizabeth Collins at Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery. Elizabeth Collins and her cousin, Lyric Cook, went missing in July 2012 after riding their bikes by Meyers Lake in Evansdale. Hunters found their bodies in a wooded area that December. (Matthew Putney/Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)
On May 4, 2013, Wylma Cook, right, hugs her grandson, Kelly Collins, left, at a graveside service for Elizabeth Collins at Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery. Elizabeth Collins and her cousin, Lyric Cook, went missing in July 2012 after riding their bikes by Meyers Lake in Evansdale. Hunters found their bodies in a wooded area that December. (Matthew Putney/Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

What sparked hopes of a new lead in the unsolved killings of two Evansdale girls six years ago has turned out to be old information, an investigator said Friday.

Acting on a tip and a search warrant, authorities scoured the Belle Plaine home of a woman who killed herself and her son earlier this month by stepping in front of train.

In investigating the May 4 murder-suicide of Teresa Gerleman, 35, and Henry Fields, 8, authorities got a tip that Gerleman may have had information about the murders in a letter written by people involved.

Investigators have not ascribed a motive to the murder-suicide, but public records paint a picture of a woman beset by legal and physical and mental health issues.

Julie Croft, one of Gerleman’s community support specialists with the Genesis Development nonprofit health rehabilitation firm, told authorities that Gerleman “was in possession of a six-page letter she was keeping in a box that was ‘written by guys she used to hang around with that admitted to doing that’” — meaning the killings of the girls — according to a search warrant application.

A list of items authorities seized in their search, filed with the court May 23, included four cellphones, one spiral notebook, one subject notebook and a handwritten note. It also included two sealed letters — one “to Jeremiah from Henry” and another “to Phaedra from Henry.”

Mike Krapfl, a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said Friday investigators did find the letter Croft mentioned.

“But it was information we already had,” he said, noting that when taken in context with Gerleman’s “mental state,” authorities got no new leads from the letter. “It’s old information is what it is.”

The Evansdale case, which captured attention across the nation, began with a missing persons report on July 13, 2012.

Cousins Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, were last seen riding their bikes at Meyers Lake. Law enforcement — along with hundreds of volunteers and community activists — spent five months searching for them.

Investigators found their remains in a rural Bremer County park on Dec. 5, 2012, leading them to conclude the girls had been kidnapped and killed. The case remains unsolved.

Krapfl said Friday that the investigation is ongoing, but he has no new leads or suspects to report publicly.

In the search warrant application submitted to the court May 4 — the day Gerleman and Henry died — authorities say the train conductor saw a woman standing on the tracks near downtown Belle Plaine “and the child had moved off of the tracks.”

“The adult female then grabbed the child, pulling him back into the impact area of the train, and both were struck by the westbound Union Pacific train,” according the court record.

In their follow-up investigation to the murder-suicide, investigators talked to Croft and another woman who worked at the nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities.

Croft told authorities that Gerleman about three months earlier said her medication made her “feel like standing in front of a train,” according to the search warrant application.

Authorities have said they don’t have a specific motive for the murder-suicide by train.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING