The Evansdale Community never gave up the search for two missing cousins, and now in the wake of the most tragic news, they’re standing by the family and helping them deal with the heartbreaking loss.
At a candlelight vigil on Thursday, neighbors hung ornaments on Christmas trees as a way of honoring Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins.
The girls went missing on July 13, while on a bike ride near Meyers Lake. Within a week police announced they were likely the victims of a kidnapping.
On Wednesday, December 5, hunters discovered two bodies in a wooded area of Seven Bridges Park about 20-miles away from where the girls were last seen.
The state medical examiner’s office has not been able to officially confirm the bodies are the girls, but they say they're confident they’ve found Lyric and Elizabeth.
Five months of worry came to an end; the families of the girls say their daughters are in heaven.
Even though they didn’t get the miracle they had hoped for, community members say they can find peace in knowing the girls have come home.
"The community had so much hope… for so long. We kept that hope alive for so long that everybody thought that we were going to have a miracle.” Cathy Lee said.
"We all feel like we know them. Whether we just know their names or we've just seen their pictures. We really feel attached to these two girls." Neighbor Erin Jeffries told Channel 13.
That’s why they decided to hold the vigil.
As family friend Sarah Staebell put it, "We just knew that the community needed somewhere to go be together and comfort each other."
There were brightly lit trees, angels, and candles. It was an event, they said, the girls would have loved.
"I think they're smiling at all the people and the pretty lights and the pretty ornaments. I think they're happy."
At this point police are still classifying the case as abduction, but say that could change depending on autopsy results. Police have remained on the scene where the girls’ bodies were discovered to collect evidence. Investigators are focused on an area along the Wapsipinicon River. The park will remain closed to the public until the investigation is complete.
Authorities are asking anyone with information to call the Evansdale police department at 319-232-6682. There is a $150,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
While Police focus on finding a suspect, a close family friend of the Collins' says she is focusing on the girl’s surviving brothers and sisters.
Dona Frickson and her daughter Sarah helped organize search efforts.
"They have to know too that their little sisters' lives are not in vein. Because of this, a lot of good is going to happen.” She said.
Lyric and Elizabeth attended Kingsley and Poyner Elementary Schools in Waterloo. Grief counselors were on hand for students at both schools.