EVANSDALE — Sevens Bridges Wildlife Area is not the sort of place someone would just happen upon, Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock said Tuesday.
And since that’s where the bodies of two kidnapped and slain cousins were found, authorities are now focusing their efforts on anyone who might be familiar with the remote Bremer County woodland.
Smock made a plea to the public on Tuesday to identify for police anyone they believe is familiar with the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area.
“I think you will all agree with me that Seven Bridges is extremely remote,” Smock said. “We have no doubt that the person or persons responsible with this crime are very familiar with Seven Bridges.”
Cousins Lyric Cook-Morrisey and Elizabeth Collins were reported missing on July 13, 2012, after going for a bike ride in Evansdale, a community near Waterloo in Black Hawk County. Their bodies were found on Dec. 5, 2012, in Seven Bridges Wildlife Area in Bremer County. The woodland is about 22 miles from Meyers Lake in Evansdale, where the girls’ bikes were found.
No arrest has been made in the case.
Last week, investigators traveled to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia to discuss the case. Smock said federal authorities were impressed with the investigators’ efforts thus far. They were also in agreement that Seven Bridges Wildlife Area represented an important part of the case.
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Smock said they want to speak with anyone who is familiar with the wildlife area — which was formerly a Bremer County park and a popular gathering place — in order to eliminate them as suspects.
The wildlife area is used for hunting, fishing, camping and mushroom hunting, Smock said. He said there are few markings that indicate where the wildlife area is located.
“It’s a very well-known area to the local community,” he said. “Unless you just knew that area, you wouldn’t just come across it.”
“Obviously, whoever took the girls to that area … was comfortable with that environment and knew of that environment,” he added.
Smock said during the news conference that it’s possible hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the Black Hawk County area have visited the park. He said his investigators will do their due diligence to clear anyone identified as being familiar with the wildlife area. Investigators interviewed people who live in the surrounding communities and found them to be “very forthcoming,” Smock said.
“We know there are hundreds or thousands or however many people that have been to Seven Bridges,” said Smock, who was flanked by representatives from other law enforcement agencies. “We want to eliminate everyone we can from that pool. We don’t to tarnish anyone’s reputation … We’re going to be very careful. We’re not going to release those names.”
Smock said his investigators have developed theories about the girls’ abduction and deaths, but he was not inclined to share those theories. He said investigators do not have any suspects in the case.
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘suspect’ or even ‘persons of interest,’” he said. “There have been a multitude of people who we have watched ... Do we have a person who we are definitely targeting? No.”
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The case has generated tens of thousands of documents, Smock said. He remains confident, more than two and a half years after the girls’ disappearance, that authorities are only “one piece of information” away from putting the case together and making an arrest.
Smock said he hopes his phone “rings off the wall” with tips after Tuesday’s news conference.
“Our hope is tomorrow that case is solved,” he said. “I have little doubt eventually this case will be solved. I truly believe we’re waiting for one phone call. Once that final bit of information comes in, we’re going to be able to tie everything together.”