EVANSDALE, Iowa (AP) - FBI agents and local police surveyed a northeast Iowa lake early Friday in preparation for a team of diving experts that will search the water for 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 agents slowly cruised the lake in a Department of Natural Resources boat while the FBI divers planned their dive.
Black Hawk County Chief Deputy Rick Abben said some pockets of the lake were up to 20 feet deep, despite a three-day operation to drain it. Agents will be looking for the girls' bodies as well as anything in the lake that might be evidence, he said.
Evansdale resident Billy Fischels, 38, who said he's helped in the search for the girls, waited for the arrival of the FBI dive team. He tied a sign to a telephone pole with a handwritten note, telling the girls they have the support of the nation and should stay strong.
"You've got a whole community and a nation that wants answers. Hopefully today they can get some," Fischels said. "I'd much rather see them alive and well somewhere, but if they are out there in the lake, at least everybody will know."
Search teams initially dredged the lake, then began draining it on Monday. But on Thursday they halted the draining operation because the FBI team needs at least 6 feet of water for the sonar equipment to function.
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.
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. Authorities have not said that the parents took the so-called lie detector tests, although Cook-Morrissey told KCCI TV in Des Moines that she had undergone such tests during police interviews.
"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.
A judge granted a prosecution request Thursday to put Dan Morrissey under pretrial supervision while he faces the September trials in two drug cases. It means parole officers will make sure Morrissey doesn't violate the terms of his release.
Morrissey is the father of Lyric Cook-Morrissey.
Authorities said Thursday that Morrissey and his wife have stopped cooperating with the investigation. Black Hawk County Chief Deputy Rick Abben says he's not sure why they've taken that approach, but they aren't considered suspects.
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.
Back at the lake, Shari Hampton, 43, said her 10-year-old son was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to fish in the drained lake. And she admitted she was worried about the possibility of abductions.
"He's really upset about it," Hampton said of her son. "He's a boy and he thinks that nothing can happen to him. But it can happen to anyone."
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