Bodies in Woods Believed to Be of Missing Iowa Cousins

12/06/2012 at 07:30 PM EST

Missing Iowa Cousins Believed Found Dead in Woods
Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins
In the five months since Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, vanished on a morning bike ride, residents and their families in the 4-square-mile town of Evansdale, Iowa, worried and prayed over the cousins' fate.

The discovery of two bodies in the woods on Wednesday finally dissolved all hope. They were tentatively identified as those of the missing children.

The girls "are up in heaven with our Savior," Elizabeth's mother Heather Collins writes on Facebook, and "the nightmare of where they are and what is happening to them has been answered. Lord we know that you have them in your loving arms and we are so blessed for that."

Without revealing an approximate time or manner of death, Black Hawk County Sheriff's Capt. Rick Abben says that authorities are "confident, based upon evidence at the scene," that the remains are the girls, although forensic tests still must confirm it.

They were found about 12:45 p.m. Wednesday by hunters in the wooded Seven Bridges Conservation Area, about 25 miles from where the girls' bikes and Lyric's purple purse were found on a lake trail July 13.

Speaking to reporters after the bodies were found, Abben told reporters, "It's definitely not the outcome that we wanted, obviously."

Elizabeth and Lyric had poured themselves two glasses of V8 Splash juice and put them on the counter to await their return before they set off from their grandmother's house. When they did not return, authorities eventually drained the lake as hundreds of law enforcement and volunteer searchers combed the area.

In the early going, authorities repeatedly interviewed and polygraphed Lyric's estranged parents, Dan and Misty Morrissey, who each had served jail time – burglary and theft for him, making and selling meth for her. But neither was ever publicly named a suspect, and in revealing the discovery of the two bodies, Abben confirms the hunt for a person or persons responsible is ongoing.

"New leads continue to come in to law enforcement," he says, "and investigators are following up on those leads."

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