The Disappearance of the Springfield Three

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LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

At 4:00pm on June 6, 1992, 19-year-old Suzie Streeter and 18-year-old Stacy McCall joined their fellow classmates for their high school graduation. The ceremony was held at Missouri State University.

After the graduation ceremony, the pair went their separate ways in order to enjoy dinner with their families before reuniting at their friend Janelle Kirby’s house, as they had planned to attend a party at her neighbour’s house. After the party, they intended to travel to Branson, Missouri and spend the night at a motel, hoping to visit White Water waterpark the next day.

At 10:00pm, Stacy phoned her mother, Janice McCall, to inform her the trio would no longer be travelling to Branson that night and would instead be spending the night at Janelle’s house, as they were having too much fun at the party. The call was a relief to Janice, who hadn’t wanted the girls driving to Branson in the middle of the night, in case they got into a car accident.

When 10:30pm came around, Suzie called her own mother, Sherrill Levitt, to discuss her plans for the night.

At 11:15pm, Sherrill phoned a friend, whom she talked to about her plans for the night, which included refinishing a piece of furniture for her bedroom.

Once the party was over, the three girls went to Janelle’s house. However, as it was full of out-of-town relatives who had attended the graduation ceremony that afternoon, Suzie and Stacy decided to instead spend the night at Suzie’s house, which was located in the 1700 block of Delmar Street in Springfield, Missouri. The two left Janelle’s house in separate cars and agreed to call their friend in the morning.

DISAPPEARANCE:

At 9:00am on the morning of June 7, Janelle called her friends, as she hadn’t yet heard from them. However, she received no answer. After numerous attempts, she and her boyfriend drove to Suzie’s house to see if they had already left for the waterpark.

Once at the house, the two noticed that Sherrill, Suzie and Stacy’s cars were still in the driveway. As they approached the house, they saw the globe around the porch light had been shattered, with glass covering the porch. Aware the mess might upset Sherrill, they swept up the debris and threw it out in a garbage bin located across the street.

Once inside the house, Janelle and her boyfriend noticed no one was home. Upon further examination, they saw both Sherrill and Suzie’s beds appeared to have been slept in. As well, the bathroom showed remnants of the Suzie and Stacey having returned home after the party.

While looking through the house, Cinnamon, Sherrill’s dog, started barking and was unusually anxious. It was also noted that Sherrill and Suzie’s cigarettes and lighters had been left behind. While Janelle was in the house, the phone rang. Janelle answered, thinking it was her friends, only to find a man was on the other line, making inappropriate comments. Thinking it was a prank call, she hung up, only for him to call again right after.

Assuming Suzie and Stacy had already left for the waterpark without her, Janelle and her boyfriend left the house.

Throughout the day, Janice phoned the house, looking for her daughter. However, similar to Janelle, her calls went unanswered. As Stacy had promised to call her mother before heading to the waterpark, this concerned Janice, who visited the house between 7:30pm and 8:00pm.

Janice looked around and noticed her daughter’s clothes from the night before had been neatly folded on the bed, with a few items missing. She also saw the TV was fuzzy, and that the three women’s purses had been neatly lined-up outside of Suzie’s room.

While at the house, Janice checked the answering machine, which featured a message from an unknown male. By accident, the message was deleted.

Worried, Janice called the Springfield Police Department to report her daughter as missing. The police filed a missing persons report and asked that she visit the station in the morning with Stacy’s dental records.

SEARCH:

Upon calling the police, Janice created and distributed missing person flyers, which featured her daughter, Suzie and Sherrill. They were put up in local shops and businesses, and were soon distributed across the country.

Once the media learnt about the disappearances, the trio were soon dubbed “The Springfield Three”.

Upon beginning their investigation, police were able to put together a potential timeline. They believe that something happened between 2:00am, when Suzie and Stacy left Janelle’s house, and 8:00am, when calls started coming into the house. While there had been no signs of a struggle, police were quick to concede that critical evidence may have been disturbed or removed by those who had previously searched the house.

When it came to the calls from the unknown male, investigators were unable to determine if they had been prank calls or if they were related to the missing women.

Neighbours were interviewed, but no one had heard or seen anything suspicious during the overnight hours on the night the three women disappeared.

On June 9, the FBI officially got involved in the case.

Not long after the disappearances, an envelope was delivered to Suzie and Sherrill’s home, addressed to Stacy’s sister, Mary. While it was at first thought the letter had come from someone involved in the disappearances, it later turned out to have been from an inmate at the local county jail, who wanted to offer his sympathies.

Early into the police investigation, a neighbour of the McCall family reported their car had been stolen. It was initially believed the theft was related to the case, but the McCall’s didn’t live near the scene of the crime and there was no related evidence found upon the car being recovered.

On June 14, a citywide effort was made to look through the remote areas around Springfield. Investigators and volunteers swept through wooded areas and streams, as well as an apartment building, after a letter containing a hand-drawn image of it was discovered in a Springfield News-Leader rack at a local grocery store. The letter also contained the phrase “use Ruse of Gas Man checking for Leak”. The weekend-long search brought about no new leads.

On June 15, a neighbour of Suzie and Sherrill’s called police to inform them she’d seen an unknown man near the house in the days leading up to the disappearances. A sketch was made up of the man, who is believed to be a transient. However, the woman was unable to ID anyone matching his description when given a police photo line-up, and it’s still unknown if he’s involved in the case.

Hoping for new leads, investigators began looking into the lives of the three missing women. They discovered Sherill had a son, named Bartt, whom she and Suzie were estranged from. Police initially looked at him as a suspect, but following an alibi that was later corroborated by a neighbour and his then-girlfriend, as well as the passing of a polygraph test, he was cleared of any involvement.

It was also learnt that Suzie was known for having difficult relationships in the past, including one with a young man named Dustin Recla. Recla, along with a man name Michael Clay, had recently been charged with vandalizing a mausoleum and stealing the gold teeth fillings from some skulls. Suzie was meant to testify at the upcoming trial.

Given Clay and Decla’s past, police brought the pair in for questioning on June 11. During the interrogations, it was reported Clay had said some incriminating statements. However, both claimed to have nothing to do with the disappearances and provided alibis to police. While they are still considered persons of interest, they have been cooperative throughout the investigation.

In regards to the previous charges, the pair eventually plead guilty and were sentenced to probation.

In July 1992, a witness called in a tip, saying she’d seen Suzie driving a silver-green 1964 to 1970 Dodge Panel Van at around 6:30am on the morning of June 7. The area was over a mile away from the crime scene. The witness claimed Suzie had looked distraught and that a man had been yelling commands at her from the backseat.

While police believe this to be a credible lead, they were puzzled as to why she hadn’t come forward sooner with the information. The witness claimed to have not seen the missing persons flyer until later into the investigation.

Upon receiving the lead, police parked a similar-looking van in front of the station, hoping people would call in with sightings or tips. They also looked through thousands of vans. Additional witnesses came forward, claiming to have seen the van in different areas of Springfield, including a man who said he’d seen a blonde female sitting in the driver’s set of a similar vehicle in the parking lot of a local grocery store. As she and the truck had appeared suspicious, he’d written down the license plate number. However, he’d thrown out of the paper before contacting police, and under hypnosis was only able to remember three digits.

It’s unknown if the sighting is related to the case.

Further witnesses claimed to have heard a woman’s screams and the squeal of tires in eastern Greene County, Missouri in the early hours of June 7. The area was searched, but no evidence was found.

As the investigation drew on, Janice McCall pushed for the story to remain in the news, hoping the continued coverage would bring in new leads.

On February 14, 1993, police shared with the public they were working on the possibility that the three disappearances could have been the work of one or more serial killers.

On August 28, 1993, information was called in, which led to a search of farmland in Webster County, Missouri. Items of interest were found, but investigators wouldn’t elaborate further, sealing the results.

A Florida man, whose sister, Sharon Zellers, had been murdered in the 1970s, called into police after seeing coverage of the disappearances on the news. He informed them of Robert Cox, a convict who had been in the Springfield area around the time the women went missing.

According to the man, Cox was the prime suspect in the killing of his sister. On the night of her murder, Cox had been in Florida to celebrate graduating basic training in the army. He’d come back to the motel he and his family were staying at covered in blood, prompting his mother to rush him to the emergency room. He claimed to have bitten his tongue, something the nurse treating him disputed, as the bite marks were in the opposite direction.

Not long after, Sharon’s body was found in a sewer facility near the motel where Cox and his family were staying. However, as DNA technology was still in its infancy in the 1970s, the evidence wasn’t enough to charge Cox with the crime.

Cox then travelled to California with the army as a Ranger, where he was convicted of abducting and assaulting two women in two separate instances. He was sentenced to nine years for the crimes.

In 1985, Cox was taken into police custody in Florida and indicted for Sharon’s murder. He was initially sentenced to death, a sentence that was later overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, which cited not enough evidence. He was then extradited back to California to finish serving out his sentence for the two abductions and assaults.

By 1992, Cox had been paroled and was living in Springfield, his hometown. Since then, the Zellers family had been keeping tabs on him. At the time of Suzie, Sherrill and Stacy’s disappearances, he was working as an underground utilities worker.

Upon learning about Cox, investigators began looking into his past, where they learnt he had previously been a mechanic at the same used car lot Stacy’s father worked at as a salesman. As she and her sisters would bring her father dinner from time to time, this led to speculation that Cox might have seen Stacy at some point and targeted her.

When brought in for questioning, Cox claimed to have attended a golf tournament on the night of the disappearances, before eventually spending the night at his parents’ house. The next morning, he brought his girlfriend and her child to church, a story that was corroborated by said girlfriend.

In December 1992, an anonymous caller phoned into America’s Most Wanted after the program aired the case. However, the call disconnected before he could be patched through to investigators. Police believe the caller knew vital information, so they sent out a public plea asking him to come forward. He never contacted them.

In March 1995, Cox was arrested in Texas for aggravated robbery and sentenced to life in prison. Upon learning this, Springfield police revisited his alibi and found his girlfriend had retracted her initial story, claiming Cox had told her to say what she had and that she didn’t actually know where he had been the night of the disappearances. When asked why she’d lied, she said she was worried he’d been involved in other crimes. She hadn’t been aware of the missing women at the time.

Springfield police then travelled to Texas, where they interviewed Cox three times. While he would say some intriguing things to investigators, he continually denied any involvement. He also said he wouldn’t share specifics until his mother passed away.

Authorities are unsure if Cox is actually involved in the case or if he’s simply seeking attention by issuing false statements.

In 1996, a Springfield news reporter travelled to Texas to interview Cox. During their meeting, he said he believed the three women to be dead and that the person who’d killed them had prior experience. He also believed the women were buried close to Springfield.

In 1997, Sherrill and Suzie were legally declared dead.

In 2001, the case, which had since gone cold, was reopened by investigators.

In 2003, investigators searched an abandoned farm, located south of Cassville, Missouri. Cadaver dogs were brought in and showed interest in various areas around the farm. As well, DNA samples were taken from the abandoned house on the property, but no matches were made to the missing women.

In the mid-2000s, a local crime reporter picked up the story and received numerous tips from the public. She claimed many had called in to say the women were buried beneath the south parking garage at Cox Hospital.

In 2007, the reporter contacted a mechanical engineer, who used ground penetrating radar to see if the women were, in fact, buried beneath the parking garage. The resulting image showed three anomalies, which he said were consistent with a possible gravesite location. However, investigators say there isn’t enough evidence to warrant digging up the parking garage. According to them, the parking garage wasn’t built until a year after the women were missing, so an excavator would have most likely dug up the bodies if they had been buried at the lot.

Police say tips are still being called in regarding the case, at a rate of about one or two a month. Over the course of the investigation, they’ve investigated thousands of tips.

THEORIES:

1) Most of those involved in the investigation feel Robert Cox had some involvement in the disappearances. Some speculate he could have used his job as a utilities worker to gain entry into the house, possibly telling the women there was a gas leak.

This theory is further supported by the fact Cox had previously worked at the same used car lot as Stacy’s father and by the statements he has given to police throughout the years. There’s also the note found in the Springfield News-Leader rack, which, while not currently linked to Cox, had the phrase “use Ruse of Gas Man checking for Leak” written on it. However, police have yet to gather enough evidence to either prove or disprove his involvement in the case.

2) Some believe the women were abducted and that their abductions had been pre-planned. However, investigators feel this theory has only a slight possibility of being correct, given the last minute changes to Suzie and Stacy’s plans. This has led some to believe that Sherrill had initially been the intended target, with Suzie and Stacy being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

3) While they are only considered persons of interest, there are some who believe Michael Clay and Dustin Recla to have been involved in the disappearances. This is supported by the fact Suzie was supposed to testify at the pair’s trial, which was set to occur a few months after the three women went missing.

AFTERMATH:

Police say the case is given a look over by a new detective whenever an investigator gets promoted or retires.

In 1997, a memorial for the three women was set up in Phelps Grove Park, which Janice frequently visits.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Sherrill Levitt went missing from the 1700 block of Delmar Street in Springfield, Missouri on June 7, 1992. She was 47 years old and was last seen wearing a floral-print dress. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’0″ and weighed approximately 110 pounds. She has bleached blonde hair and brown eyes, and has freckles on her neck and upper chest.

Suzie Streeter went missing from the 1700 block of Delmar Street in Springfield, Missouri on June 7, 1992. She was 19 years old and was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, jeans and pink shoes. At the time of her disappearance, she was between 5’2″ and 5’5″ and weighed approximately 102 pounds. She has bleached blonde hair and brown eyes, with a scar on her upper right forearm and a small tumour on the left corner of her mouth. Both her ears are pierced, with the left one having been pierced twice.

Stacy McCall went missing from the 1700 block of Delmar Street in Springfield, Missouri on June 7, 1992. She was 18 years old and was last seen wearing a yellow shirt, floral shorts, a 14″ herringbone chain necklace, a ring with a small diamond and a flat gold initial ring. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’3″ and weighed approximately 120 pounds. She has dark blonde hair and blue eyes, with freckles on her face, a dimple in the middle of her chin, and birthmarks near her lip and on her right arm. Her ears are pierced.

Currently, the three cases are classified as endangered missing. If alive, Sherrill would be 74 years old, Suzie would be 45 years old and Stacy would be 44 years old.

If you have any information regarding the case, you can contact the Springfield Police Department at 417-864-1810 or Crime Stoppers at 417-869-8477.

Image Credit: Dark Sleuth

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