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Officials probe landfill, summon heavy equipment to lake in search for missing Iowa cousins
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ¯¯¯ Authorities searching for two missing cousins said Wednesday that they have hunted for clues in a landfill and were summoning heavy equipment to more closely examine a northwest Iowa lake where the girls' bicycles were found last week.
As the search for Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, entered its sixth day, family members pleaded for officials to do even more. A congressman requested assistance from additional FBI agents to resume an all-out manhunt for the girls, last seen Friday leaving Elizabeth's house less than a mile from the lake.
"We're at a standstill," said Tammy Brousseau, aunt to both girls, told The Associated Press. "Bring in everybody. Bring in the army. Let's do this manhunt again ... They disappeared into thin air."
Brousseau said she feared the girls were abducted, possibly by a sexual predator. She dismissed the possibility the girls might have drowned because they are good swimmers and their shoes weren't found.
For the third straight day, authorities drained the lake with hopes of ruling out that the girls' bodies would be found underwater. The effort was taking longer than expected, but Black Hawk County Chief Deputy Rick Abben said he expected it to wrap up by Friday with the help of the equipment. He told members of the media to move their vehicles from the area to clear a path for the equipment, which he didn't describe.
Earlier in the investigation, officials dredged the lake, and on Monday night FBI dogs detected their apparent scents in the area. Officials said that signaled a strong likelihood they had been there.
The bikes and Elizabeth's purse were recovered Friday afternoon on the bank of the lake, just hours after they left Elizabeth's house where their grandmother was watching them in Evansdale, a Waterloo suburb.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley said the family of the girls asked him to send a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller seeking assurance that all available agency resources were being used.
FBI spokeswoman Sandy Breault said there was a possibility a dive team from Los Angeles may be deployed to search the deeper holes of water in the lake, but it wasn't clear if they would be requested along with the equipment.
Debbie Acklin of Black Hawk County Waste Disposal, the company that handles trash collection in the area, said authorities asked the company Monday to start dumping trash from Evansdale homes and businesses in a separate area of the county landfill. Abben confirmed the landfill had been searched but declined to say what, if any, evidence was found.
Brousseau said officers recently went into a family home and confiscated all the computers "for the purpose of seeing what information they could get off them."
While Lyric's parents did television interviews and frequently checked the lake, Elizabeth's parents stayed out of the public eye. Drew and Heather Collins moved from their home in Evansdale to an undisclosed location to get rest because too many people kept showing up, Brousseau said.
Adden said the family was cooperating with the investigation, which authorities continued to treat as a missing persons case.
"We have no reason to believe there was any foul play at this time," he said. "Everyone is suspect until we find something."
Associated Press writer Nelson Lampe contributed from Omaha, Neb.