This article was originally published during the filming of the Disappeared TV show
in December of 2010.
December 14, 2010|by Sara Forhetz, KY3 News |
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The city's biggest and most mysterious
crime is receiving some new attention. It's the case of three women who
disappeared after a high school graduation party 18 years ago. On Tuesday, there was a meeting of the minds
with Springfield's new police chief and others who were involved in the case in
Investigators are not releasing exactly what was discussed
behind closed doors, only that law enforcement officers, the prosecutor, and
others are reviewing the cold case and deciding what their next move is.
Meanwhile, some on the case detail the difficulties that lie
ahead in solving the women's disappearance.
"We were working 12-hour days and everything. They were pulling people out of patrol from
regular assignments to address this because it became a beast of its own
really," Mark Webb said recently.
Webb was a Springfield Police Department detective on the
case in 1992. He says he distinctly
remembers the hectic days and weeks just after Sherill Levitt (sp. Sherrill), Suzie Streeter,
and Stacy McCall disappeared from 1717 E. Delmar St.
"We had stacks of 3 X 5 cards on a desk where callers
were taking information. We saw them at
the Greasy Skillet in Fordland, or we saw them at wherever, getting on a plane
to Mexico," Webb remembered.
There were thousands of tips, just more than 5,000, but
still there was little good evidence to go on.
"The scene had basically already been corrupted by
friends and people that had come to the house looking for them," Webb
Those friends, he said, had no idea with what they were
dealing on that Sunday in June. It would
become Springfield's biggest crime scenes.
"I think it should be remembered that law enforcement
was not called at first when the three women first went missing. This delay resulted in significant changes to
the crime scene by well meaning friends," said Terry Knowles, who was the
police chief in 1992.
There have long been questions about how the police work was
handled. Getting a glimpse of that now
is the new police chief, Paul Williams, who arrived here from Tulsa, Okla.,
"For some reason, that was a top-down investigation;
top-down driven as opposed to bottom-up investigating. If we have a homicide or robbery, I don't go
out and step in and tell the detectives what to do. I monitor their progress and get updates;
that’s generally what happens," said Williams.
That was not the case here.
Dozens of hands were in the pot.
"From the moment SPD was notified of the case, it was
worked aggressively. We worked
24-7. We brought in special teams, the
FBI, criminal profilers, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and countless other law enforcement
agencies," Knowles said in a telephone interview from Kansas, where he
moved to take a job at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Perhaps it was too many investigators too soon, some thought.
"We had so many people we didn't normally work with, so
now you had those relations to deal with.
Somebody is going to have to say, 'Hey, I'm responsible for this, I did
this and I'm confessing.' It's going to
take a confession in my opinion, for what it's worth," said Webb, who left
the Springfield Police Department for other law enforcement jobs.
Knowles said this was not an ordinary case. He compared the situation to football head
coach wjp wouldn't let all the assistant coaches make the call in a critical
Knowles said, if memory serves him correctly, there were
some 32 people known to have been at the house where the women disappeared
before police were called. They were all
friends who simply didn't realize what had happened. Some straightened and cleaned up the house,
thinking that would help the women when they returned to the home.