CEDAR FALLS - The parents of one of two Iowa cousins who were missing for months before hunters found their remains in the woods last week say their faith in God is stronger than ever.
Heather and Drew Collins said at a Thursday news conference hours before a memorial service for their daughter, Elizabeth, that while it's unlikely their family will ever get closure, they don't blame God for the deaths of their daughter and Lyric Cook.
Heather Collins said she knows God was with the girls.
Drew Collins, left, and wife Heather, right, hug family and friends at the visitation before The Life and Love of Elizabeth Collins celebration at Heartland Vineyard Church at Thursday in Cedar Falls. The celebration was held on the five month anniversary cousins Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey went missing in Evansdale.
"We know God was with them the whole entire time," she said. "We know where they are now. They're in such a much better place. They're going to have such a much better Christmas than we are."
Hunters found the girls' bodies last week in a wooded area about 25 miles from Evansdale, where the girls were last seen. Elizabeth was 8 and Lyric was 10 when they went for a bike ride in July and didn't return. Their disappearance and the search for them captured national attention.
Collins said she doesn't blame God for the girls' deaths.
"What happened to them was not from God," she said. "It was from the enemy."
Heather Collins also spoke about how the couple's three other children are coping with their sister's death. That includes counseling, and finding ways to speak to Elizabeth through drawing and looking up at the sky.
Drew Collins said that although the family may never find closure, they are determined to find who hurt the girls. He said he suspects the person may have been a sex offender.
"We want whoever is responsible to have to answer for what they've done," he said. "I think we'll get a little more closure then. We don't want this person to be able to hurt anybody else."
The couple said they will meet with Gov. Terry Branstad and other families next week to discuss death penalty legislation. Drew Collins said he supports the death penalty and he believes there should be changes to the judicial system on how prison sentences are issued to sex offenders who may commit again.
"If someone murders a child, they need to be punished severely," he said.
The couple said Thursday's memorial in Cedar Falls will be a celebration of their daughter's short life. Heather Collins said the family had always planned a celebration for when their daughter came home, though the circumstances are different.
"She did come home, even though it wasn't on earth," she said.
Lyric's family said a service for her will be scheduled after Christmas or early next year.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.