Missing Iowa girlsThe worst has happened. The search for missing Iowa girls Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 11, and Elizabeth Collins, 9, has officially ended in tragedy. At a press conference this afternoon, police confirmed the bodies found by hunters in the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area are indeed those of the cousins who disappeared in July.

Technically, it will take the actual medical examiner's report to give the Cook, Morrissey, and Collins families a positive ID and give police in Evansdale, Iowa a cause of death. But the sure note in the voice of Black Hawk County sheriff's Capt. Rick Abben during this afternoon's announcement left no doubt. These are the girls.

Lyric and Elizabeth are gone.

When asked how he could be so certain, Abben could only say that there are no other children missing in the Evansdale area, and the two bodies found were small in stature -- strong evidence but not exactly a slam dunk. And yet, I have a feeling the announcement was made as much for the family's sakes as anything. 

Lyric's and Elizabeth's parents can't be kept hanging on, wondering any longer. They need closure, as much as they can get, anyway, with the result of the autopsy yet to come, with the horror of what happened to their children soon to come out. They need to be given the chance to transition from anxious waiting to coming to terms with pure grief.

It is, of course, the worst outcome. We all hoped that they were being kept somewhere, alive, and that they would be found. It may have been naive, but miracles have happened. Look at Jaycee Dugard, at Elizabeth Smart. I'm sure the girls' parents have more than once over the months since their daughters went out on a bike ride and never came back. Just last month, they wrote a letter to the anonymous person they thought might have abducted their girls, a letter of sympathy that showed they were still holding out hope.

Crushing their dream is hard, but Lyric's and Elizabeth's families are going to have to find strength for another, equally hard road ahead.

The reward of $150,000 for providing information that leads to the arrest of the person responsible for Lyric's and Elizabeth's deaths is still on the table. And while Abben said the girls' disappearance is still being treated as an abduction, he admitted it will likely now be turned into a homicide investigation. Soon these parents will find out how their daughters died, maybe one day why, what kind of monster would do this to two innocent young children.

My heart goes out to families of the missing girls. What they heard today wasn't something anyone wants to hear. But this is only the beginning of the pain for these families.

What would you like to say to these families today?

 

Image via Black Hawk County Sheriff's Department