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FBI divers with sonar scour lake for missing Iowa cousins, 8 and 10, near where bikes found
EVANSDALE, Iowa (AP) ¯¯¯ An FBI dive team searched an Iowa lake early Friday for signs of two young girls who disappeared in the area a week ago.
Meyers Lake is about a mile from the Evansdale home where 10-year-old Lyric Cook-Morrissey and her cousin, 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins, were last seen on July 13. The girls set off on a bike ride and never returned. Their bicycles were found on a path near the lake.
The 26-acre body of water near an interstate in northeast Iowa is stocked with fish and popular for fishing. Investigators dredged it after the girls disappeared and then began draining the water. They halted the draining operation Thursday because the FBI team needs at least 6 feet of water for its sonar equipment to function.
On Friday, parts of the lake were nearly empty of water, with the sandy and muddy bottom showing, but other areas still had up to 20 feet of murky water. FBI agents made laps of the lake in an Iowa Department of Natural Resources boat, while four other agents slowly walked along the shore, looking for evidence. They waded into water that ranged from ankle-deep to chest-high.
Black Hawk County Chief Deputy Rick Abben said agents were looking for the girls' bodies as well as anything in the lake that might be evidence. He said a search last weekend with sonar equipment operated by DNR found nothing in the lake, but FBI's technology is far superior. He noted the FBI only has a few dive teams nationwide.
"It's high-tech. It should be pretty good stuff," he said.
The FBI uses two kinds of sonar ¯¯¯ one that can detect debris in murky water and another that provides a 360-degree analysis of the bottom of the lake. That device is mounted on a tripod that sends signals to computers on the surface helping direct divers where to search.
After circling the lake for two hours, the agents in the boat pulled a shore, got out and appeared to be discussing the operation. FBI spokeswoman Sandy Breault said 10 dive team members were there, including those in the boat and on shore, but none had yet gone under the surface of the water.
About 20 onlookers, mostly residents who had volunteered with the search, waited in the park near the lake for news of developments.
Angie Webb, 29, a teacher at the elementary school in the Waterloo suburb that Elizabeth attended, said she was holding out hope that the FBI divers would be unsuccessful and that the girls would show up alive.
"If they are in the lake, that's the worst-case scenario. You've got to be hopeful," Webb said.
On Thursday, tension between investigators and Lyric's parents seemed to reach a breaking point, with police suggesting they weren't cooperating and the couple consulting an attorney.
Tammy Brousseau, an aunt of both girls, told The Associated Press that Misty Cook-Morrissey and Dan Morrissey feel they're being treated as suspects.
She said an attorney advised the couple on Wednesday to stop talking to reporters, discontinue television interviews and not agree to take any more polygraph tests, Brousseau said. Cook-Morrissey told KCCI TV in Des Moines that she had undergone such tests during police interviews, and Abben confirmed Thursday that the parents had taken some polygraph tests.
"That makes it a distraction for us when people decide to do things other than to cooperate 100 percent," Black Hawk County Chief Deputy Rick Abben said. "However, it's their choice how they wish to proceed with that."
Abben said investigators are aware that Lyric's parents have criminal records.
"Everyone was checked into. We did background checks on those people immediately and on everyone," Abben said.
Morrissey, 36, has three drug convictions, including possession of marijuana and ingredients used to make methamphetamine, most recently in 2011, court records show. He also was charged with domestic abuse causing bodily injury in August 2011 and has a trial date set for September.
Cook-Morrissey, 34, pleaded guilty in 2003 in federal court to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine, court documents show. She also has theft and alcohol violations in state court. She is on supervised release after her probation was revoked in September for violating terms of her probation, including use of illegal drugs, excessive use of alcohol and failure to comply with drug tests.
Elizabeth's father, 40-year-old Drew Collins, has been convicted of fifth-degree theft, court records show.
The Associated Press tried to contact the Morrisseys later Thursday but the phone went to voicemail and was not able to take messages.
Associated Press writer David Pitt in Des Moines contributed to this report.