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Elizabeth Collins' parents hope to attend Shepard's funeral

“It brings it all back to the day we found out our girls were found."

Drew Collins, left, and wife Heather, right, hug family and friends at the visitation before The Life and Love of Elizab
Drew Collins, left, and wife Heather, right, hug family and friends at the visitation before The Life and Love of Elizabeth Collins celebration at Heartland Vineyard Church at Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The celebration was held on the five month anniversary cousins Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey went missing in Evansdale. (MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor)

Few people can understand the grief that comes from having a child kidnapped and killed, but it’s something Heather and Drew Collins of Evansdale know all too well.

“It was excruciating to get the news, but it was a relief because we knew where they were,” Heather Collins said Saturday of the December day when the bodies of her daughter Elizabeth, 8, and her niece Lyric Cook, 10, were discovered by hunters.

They had been missing since July 13 when they were abducted from Evansdale while riding their bicycles.

Heather and Drew were on their own bike ride Saturday — a benefit ride for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. As they rode, they said they were thinking not just of Elizabeth and Lyric, but Kathlynn Shepard and her family as well.

Heather Collins was at a graduation party Friday night when she heard authorities had breaking news in the Shepard case.

“Just in my gut, I knew it wasn’t going to be good,” she said. “It brings it all back to the day we found out our girls were found.

“I feel for those families and pray they stick together and hold on to their faith,” Collins said. She and her husband have reached out to Kathlynn’s parents to let them know they’re available to talk and provide support, she said.

The couple hopes to attend Kathlynn’s funeral and continue their crusade for tougher prison sentences for kidnapping and sexual assault convictions.

Kathlynn’s parents and others in the Dayton community have already spoken out about the need for tougher sentences on violent criminals. Klunder was a registered sex offender with a violent history that included convictions for kidnapping and assault.“He never should have been let out, and he should not have been able to plea bargain,” Collins said. “Kathlynn didn’t get to plea bargain for her life.”

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