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May 30, 2017
How did the three missing women case impact Springfield's psyche?
Gregory J. Holman , GHOLMAN@NEWS-LEADER.COM
Published 5:11 p.m. CT May 29, 2017 | Updated Approx 10 am May 30, 2017
Link on 5.30.17 - http://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2017/05/29/how-did-three-missing-women-case-impact-springfields-psyche/102117002/
Video - http://sgfnow.co/2rgYn6l
Janis McCall talks about her daughter Stacy, who disappeared 25 years ago along with two other women. Andrew Jansen/News-Leader
The 1992 disappearance of Sherrill (sp.) Levitt, Suzanne Streeter and Stacy McCall prompted a mixed psychological impact on Springfield and its community parenting culture, psychologists and longtime residents told the News-Leader.
Kay Logsdon, a longtime Springfield resident who served as city spokeswoman when the three women went missing, said that the disappearance was felt as a "community crisis."
"My overwhelming memories are of the concern for the women, concern for their families," Logsdon said. "And the hope that we carried for them."
"I think everybody in Springfield put themselves in their place," she added. "It was one of the first times when an abduction hit home."
Springfield psychologist Deborah Cox said an unexplained disappearance can create "collective anxiety" in the community.
"It's different from individual anxiety because it's something shared," said Cox, a specialist in family therapy and trauma recovery who was at Missouri State University from 1998 to 2009 before turning to private practice.
The sense of threat induced by an event like the disappearance of the "three missing women" is akin to the effects of a terror attack, she said.
"Because it is terrorist activity," she added.
Cox said that it's common for people to react by saying, "Oh boy, we better be locking our doors now, we better have a tighter rein on our kids."
Meanwhile, collective anxiety may crop up when we least expect it.
"It might be invisible to us," Cox said. "We may not know why we have a feeling of unease."
The emotions of every individual are affected by a planetary network of human relationship ties, Cox said.
The flyer for the three missing women, Sherrill Levitt, Suzie Streeter and Stacy McCall. (Photo: News-Leader File Photo)
As such, collective anxiety can affect things like traffic patterns, the atmosphere at schools, family life and relationships among next-door neighbors.
Grant Jones, a psychologist with Evangel University who specializes in PTSD and trauma disorders, posited a somewhat different view.
"A one-time event will have a novelty effect, but then it will go away," he said.
He likened the case of the missing women to news cycles.
"It's a sensational thing, and there may be some effects like 9/11," he said. "People change a little bit, but within a year they're back doing what they did before."
Jones believes there was not much impact from the 1992 case because at that time the public was less aware of issues such as human trafficking or instances of ex-spouses abducting children from schools.
In his view, most people could not relate to the situation, so were less affected by it.
Stuart McCall takes a phone call as Janis sits near on June 9, 1992. (Photo: News-Leader File Photo)
Today, the public hears multiple story lines to the effect that "the world is not safe for children," Jones said, citing awareness of sexual predators and child abduction.
Jones cited the 2014 Hailey Owens case, in which a child was abducted from near her northwest Springfield home before being sexually assaulted and killed, as having a greater impact than the case of the three missing women.
"So many people could identify with it," he said. "It's a child doing normal outdoor stuff, and then she's gone. That's scary."
"Any parent, grandparent can say, 'Yes, I've let my kids play outside.'"
Still, Jones, who has been at Evangel 33 years, has memories of the events of 1992.
Police detectives and a former prosecutor reflect on the 25th anniversary of the Three Missing Women case. Andrew Jansen/News-Leader
"For me, it was like okay, where's the police in this?" he said.
"There wasn't a sense that this was part of a larger narrative. It was like, this is weird. This happens maybe in Texas or New York or somewhere, but in Springfield, Missouri, that's bizarre."
Springfield native Mary Guccione remembers her family and friends were abuzz about the case.
"(The case) affected everybody," she said.
She remembers when a Springfield friend called to ask her to put up missing-person posters around Joplin.
Some of the more than 30 officers investigating the disappearance of three women gather for an afternoon police briefing by police chief Terry Knowles on June 10, 1992. (Photo: News-Leader File Photo)
Her church offered prayers for Levitt, Streeter, McCall and their families.
She and her fellow parents began to wonder about how best to look out for their children.
"Everybody's kids were graduating" when the women disappeared, Guccione said. "Everyone was concerned about their teenage daughters because they didn't understand what was going on."
Guccione said that despite this, she felt her friends and neighbors reacted reasonably to the disappearance. She never had the impression that "overinflated" stories were coming out.
"But the eyebrow was always raised."
Guccione added that she raised her children as she had been raised: free-rein.
"I told them not to stray too far, always let me know where they were going," she said. "The minute the streetlights came on, they were to be home."
"It was very much a small-town type of childhood, and we knew our neighbors."
Twenty-five years later, Cox, the psychologist in private practice, believes the community continues to see effects of the case.
File photo of the second investigation at the Levitt house on east Delmar. File Photo In the photo are Janis McCall, center, Terry Knowles, then police chief, and Meredith McCall. (Photo: News-Leader File Photo)
"Time doesn't cause anything to happen on its own," she said. " But over time, other processes do morph the information."
People already prone to fear and paranoia "will be even more stirred up," apt to "dig around" and make up stories to explain mysterious events.
"On some level, we're all trying to make sense of it," she said.
Jones, the Evangel psychologist, concurred.
"When you're creating a memory and you don't have all the details, you do memory reconstruction," he said. People add details where none exist.
"You start to create something that might not be accurate because every human being needs closure," he said.
"The longer it goes on, the more weird it may become, because the traditional explanations don't work, yet we still want something to explain it."
25 years after three Springfield women went missing, the tips still trickle in
Thomas Gounley, TGOUNLEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM
4:41 p.m. CT May 30, 2017
Link on 5.30.17 - http://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2017/05/30/25-years-after-three-springfield-women-went-missing-tips-still-trickle/101753510/
Video - http://sgfnow.co/2rgSZ3j
Janis McCall talks about her daughter Stacy, who disappeared 25 years ago along with two other women. Andrew Jansen/News-Leader
Where do tips come from? Darrell Moore — who was Greene County's chief assistant prosecutor in 1992, and later led the office for more than a decade — told the News-Leader that prisoners have been one common source.
"As people went to prison, they would try and find ways to maybe leverage themselves out of trouble and out of prison," said Moore, who now works for the Missouri Attorney Generals' Office. "So they would hear stories so they would call a lawyer who would call the police department. It got to the point where we could say, 'We’ve looked at that, we’ve already done that.'"
The case's public profile has waxed and waned over the years. By the late 1990s, developments were few. In the early 2000s, tips prompted several digging operations. The past decade, however, has been largely quiet.
King said that a lot of information was shared in the case's early days. However, at some point, he said, telling the public everything "to a point can hinder an investigation, because when we do look at a potential person of interest or something of that nature, they have just as much information as everyone else on the street."
"So we don't have anything held back to judge whether or not they're being honest with us," King said.
Those who followed the case in the 1990s will remember the name Robert Craig Cox, a convicted kidnapper known to be in Springfield when the women went missing, who proceeded to tell the authorities the three were dead and he knew where they were buried. His status hasn't changed in recent years. He remains a person of interest.
A stubborn theory in some corners of the internet is that the women are buried underneath a south Springfield parking garage owned by Cox Health. Police spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the department first received that tip in 2006, but that the original tipster "provided no evidence or logical reasoning behind this theory at that time or since then."
25th anniversary of the Three Missing Women case
Police detectives and a former prosecutor reflect on the 25th anniversary of the Three Missing Women case. Andrew Jansen/News-Leader
The tips still trickle in.
"They've leveled off," said Springfield police Sgt. Todd King. "We tend to get, I would say, a couple a month."
It's been 25 years since three Springfield women vanished without a trace. On June 6, 1992, 19-year-old Suzie Streeter and her friend Suzie McCall, 18, graduated from Parkview High School. They spent the evening at graduation parties.
In the early morning hours of June 7, the two retired to a home in the 1700 block of East Delmar Street, where Streeter lived with her mother, 47-year-old Sherrill Levitt.
That's where the mystery begins. Levitt, Streeter and McCall were never seen again.
When a friend called the home around 8 a.m., there was no answer. Over the course of the day, friends and family members made the rounds and made calls, checking out places they thought the women might have gone. Assumptions that the three women would return any minute gradually gave way to worry. On the evening of June 7, McCall's mother called police.
The scene was concerning. Each of the women had a car, and all three were parked outside the unlocked house. Their purses were at the top of the stairs. Levitt and Streeter, both smokers, had left their cigarettes behind. McCall had left without her migraine medication.
But there was no sign of a struggle. The only thing amiss was a porch light cover that had been busted. Friends of the women, however, had cleaned up the broken glass long before the cops were called, thinking they were being helpful.
It was a highly-publicized case from the start. The FBI was called. Search parties were organized. Within a week, the faces of Springfield's three missing women were broadcast on the television show "America's Most Wanted." Tips poured in.
The flyer for the three missing women, Sherrill Levitt, Suzie Streeter and Stacy McCall. (Photo: News-Leader File Photo)
A case that everyone expected to be quickly solved, however, turned into the city's most well-known cold case.
"It's always been open," King said in a recent interview late last month. "It's an active investigation."
The Springfield Police Department has turned over. There are no sworn officers left that were on the force back in 1992. Over the years, the case of the Springfield Three, or 3MW, has been assigned to numerous investigators. Whenever one has retired, or been promoted, the case has been handed off to someone new. Fresh eyes.
For the last year and a half, the eyes have been those of Detective Scott Hill. King, as his direct supervisor, helps him respond to the tips that come in.
There have been thousands over the years, although fewer as time has gone on. The majority that come in these days are identical, or similar, to previous ones. That's not to say they are unwelcome. After 25 years, the department's plea hasn't changed: Keep them coming.
"Somebody out there knows something and has not come forward, with a piece of information to put this thing together," Lt. Culley Wilson said.
"We wish they would come forward, because it's awful to lose a child for those families," Wilson continued. "But to lose a child and not know where they're at, or to not know what's happening, it's tragic."
Darrell Moore was an assistant prosecutor at the time three Springfield women went missing in 1992. (Photo: Andrew Jansen/News-Leader)
Cox said police have spoken with the woman who made the tip, as well as individuals she hired to scan a portion of the parking garage. In some cases, Cox said, the individuals denied making statements the woman attributed to them. A professor told police he was unaware of technology that could scan the area in the way the tipster described, according to police.
Construction of the parking garage began in September 1993, Cox said — some 15 months after the women went missing.
"Digging up the area and subsequently reconstructing this structure would be extremely costly, and without any reasonable belief that the bodies could be located here, it is illogical to do so, and for those reasons SPD does not intend to," Cox said. "Investigators have determined this lead to not be credible."
King said Springfield police "keep very close contact with the McCalls." Contact with the extended Streeter family is more occasional.
The causes of cold cases breakthroughs can generally be divided into two categories. First, someone can talk, either in the form of a confession or just another tip, one that leads police to the perpetrator(s). Second, there can be a scientific breakthrough that makes existing evidence more valuable. Some cold cases, for instance, have been solved with DNA technology that didn't exist when the crime first occurred.
Moore said the first option is likely the only one here. He said he's unaware of "any evidence found at the scene that could ever implicate anybody."
Wilson and King, of Springfield police, said they both remain optimistic.
"We're going to solve it," Wilson said. "I don't know when. It may not be within our time left here (at the department), but we're going to solve it."
Springfield Police Sgt. Todd King talks about the current state of the investigation into the three missing women 25 years after they disappeared. (Photo: Nathan Papes/News-Leader)
Moore said he finds hope in the fact that, during his time as prosecutor, people were brought to justice in two cases more than 20 years after the fact.
The first was the 1982 murder of 15-year-old Tammy Smith, whose body was found two months after she disappeared after returning a shopping cart to a Ramey's grocery store; Joel "Jody" Moore was sentenced in 2005. The second was the prosecution of Gerald Carnahan for the 1985 murder of 20-year-old Nixa resident Jackie Johns; a jury found Carnahan guilty in 2010.
“So, at times I think it’ll never be resolved, but then I remind myself of at least those two cases where eventually there was resolution," he said.
Twenty-five years later, the Springfield Three still resonates as a case it seems everyone local knows. Wilson, however, said that if you went back 30 years, it's likely most people could rattle off the details of the Young Brothers Massacre. But now there are plenty of locals unaware of the 1932-gun battle that killed six law enforcement officers in present-day Republic.
"That's kind of the fear," Wilson said. "As more time goes by, this case gets colder and colder."
Still, he said, "we're both optimistic.”
How did the three-missing women case impact Springfield's psyche?
Here's a timeline of the case:
— 1992 —
June 6: Suzie Streeter and Stacy (sp.) McCall graduate from Kickapoo High School, later attending two graduation parties together. The pair wind up at Streeter’s house at 1717 E. Delmar St. about 2 a.m. June 7.
June 7: A friend calls the house at 8 or 9 a.m. and gets no answer. She stops by a little after noon, but there is no sign of the girls or Suzie’s mother, Sherrill Levitt. Police are called late that evening.
June 8: Police begin investigating the case. The unlocked house appears as if the women simply vanished while getting ready for bed.
June 9: The FBI is called in.
June 14: Authorities begin a sweep of wooded areas and streams in the Springfield area and search an apartment building after a letter containing a rough drawing of the apartment complex and the phrase, “use Ruse of Gas Man checking for Leak,” is found in a News-Leader rack at a grocery store. Also on this day, pictures of the women air on the television show “America's Most Wanted.”
June 15: Police begin working a fresh tip about a transient who neighbors reported seeing near the home in the days before the women disappeared. A sketch is released, showing a man with long hair and a full beard.
June 16: Police release a photo of a retouched Dodge van, similar to one seen near Levitt and Streeter's home early on June 7.
June 24: Police work on a new tip. A waitress at George’s Steakhouse, one of Levitt’s favorite restaurants, says she saw the three women at the diner between 1 and 3 a.m. June 7. The women arrived and left together. The waitress said Suzie appeared giddy, perhaps intoxicated, and her mom tried to calm her down.
June 28: Police end their 24-hour command post at Levitt’s home.
— 1993 —
Jan. 2: An anonymous New Year’s Eve caller to a switchboard operator of “America's Most Wanted” is cut off when the operator tries to link up with Springfield investigators. Police still seek contact with the man, whom they consider having prime knowledge of the abductions.
Feb. 14: For the first time, police announce that they are considering the possibility that the disappearances are the work of one or more serial killers.
Aug. 28: Information from an informant leads police to search farmland in Webster County looking for bodies. Police say they find items at the scene, but will not elaborate. The results of the search warrant were sealed.
— 1994 —
A lead prompts authorities to search a section of Bull Shoals Lake, where they find animal remains and pieces of clothing. The clothing does not match the description of what the women were wearing.
— 1995 —
A grand jury disbands in January without handing up indictments. Robert Craig Cox, whose name came up early in the investigation, is arrested in Texas for aggravated robbery. After information on Cox is presented to a grand jury, investigators interview him in a Texas prison. In the grand jury, Cox’s ex-girlfriend tells jurors that she lied when she told police Cox was with her at church the morning of June 7, 1992.
— 1996 —
Former News-Leader reporter Robert Keyes interviews Cox from prison. The inmate tells Keyes he knows the women were killed and buried somewhere in Springfield or close by. “And they’ll never be found.”
— 1997 —
The family of Sherrill Levitt and Suzie Streeter go through court proceedings to declare the two women dead. Stacy’s parents vow that they will not declare their daughter dead until her body is found.
— 2001 —
Maj. Steve Ijames takes command of the Criminal Investigations Section and reopens several cold cases, including that of the three missing women.
— 2002 —
Springfield police write Cox a letter, requesting an interview. He declines. Also, this year, Webster County authorities dig near an abandoned slaughterhouse south of Marshfield. They find teeth and bone fragments estimated to be about 100 years old.
Following new tips, investigators check an old farm about five miles south of Cassville. Cadaver-seeking dogs show interest in various areas. Tires, trash, a motorcycle and sections of a green vehicle are dug up from the surrounding farmland. DNA samples taken from an abandoned house on the property are sent to a lab for testing, but no match is found.
— 2006 —
A group of amateur detectives go to Springfield police and Greene County Prosecutor Darrell Moore with their theory that the three women are buried under a parking garage near Cox South hospital. Authorities decide not to dig under the garage, saying there isn’t enough evidence to warrant the cost of digging.
— 2010 —
Paul Williams, Springfield's new police chief, initiates a review of the case, which extends into 2012.
— 2012 —
Springfield police investigators travel to Virginia and present their review of the case to a panel of 25 criminal-justice investigators assembled by the National
May 31, 2017
Mother of missing woman: Don't call it an anniversary
Giacomo Bologna, GBOLOGNA@NEWS-LEADER.COM
Published 11:15 p.m. CT May 31, 2017 | Updated 11:17 p.m. CT May 31, 2017
Standing in that bedroom on June 7, 1992, Janis McCall had no way of knowing her daughter would become part of Springfield's most puzzling unsolved disappearance.
Instead, McCall was angry.
Her daughter Stacy had just graduated from Kickapoo and was spending the night at a friend's home, but when Stacy didn't call her the next day, McCall went over to the central Springfield home.
The doors were unlocked. And inside a room were Stacy McCall's shorts, shoes and bra in a neat pile on the floor next to the bed. Nearby were her keys, her bathing suit, her purse and her make-up kit.
"I thought, 'This is absolutely stupid' — that she left her stuff here and she left her car and she didn't have any sense to call me," McCall said.
Stacy was a beautiful, vibrant girl, McCall said. She used to model wedding dresses, and her long hair reached past her waist.
Even now, when McCall sees a girl with hair that long, she has to get a glimpse of the girl's face just to see that it's not Stacy.
Why didn't she call? And why was her car still parked outside?
"Her shirt and her panties were all that she had," McCall said.
The TV in the bedroom was turned on, but only static was on the screen.
McCall went outside to her daughter's car and realized — this doesn't make sense.
In the ensuing days, one of the largest missing-person searches ever began in southwest Missouri.
They were looking for Stacy McCall, 18, Suzanne "Suzie" Streeter, 19, and Streeter's mother, Sherrill Levitt, 47.
Janis McCall, the mother of Stacy McCall, looks at an old newspaper from the days after her daughter and two other women went missing. (Photo: Nathan Papes/News-Leader)
Stacy McCall and Streeter had left the graduation party in Battlefield together. They went to the central Springfield home of Streeter's mother, Levitt. That's the last known place the three missing women were believed to have been.
Within a week, divers from the fire department had scoured Lake Springfield, police officers on horseback had searched fields, and more than 20,000 flyers had been distributed across the area.
The day after their disappearance, a captain with the Springfield Police Department said: "We think we're heading in the right direction ... Our hopes remain high to get that one clue or that one phone call that really gives you a break in the case."
Police detectives and a former prosecutor reflect on the 25th anniversary of the Three Missing Women case. Andrew Jansen/News-Leader
Nearly 25 years have passed, and that clue or phone call still hasn't come.
McCall said she's felt as though the case was on the brink of being solved countless times, calling those feelings an "emotional roller coaster."
"You're at the lowest low and then you go up and you're at the highest high and you think 'I'm gonna have her home tonight. I'm gonna have my baby home,'" she said. "Then within a few hours or a few days, you're back to the lowest low again."
How many times has she ridden that roller coaster? "I can't even begin to tell you," McCall said. "Truly, I don't believe that they're alive; I think they're probably gone. I don't know why or when or how long they were kept alive. ... I would love to find them in white slavery somewhere or sold to a sheik over in Iraq."
Next Wednesday will be the 25th marker — not anniversary, she said — of their disappearance.
"Anniversaries are something people celebrate," she said, "and we don't celebrate when the three missing women disappeared."
The last time McCall said she saw her daughter was June 6, 1992, around 8:30 p.m.
The family had just eaten and was taking pictures outside before cutting Stacy's graduation cake, McCall said.
Stacy wanted to go to a party and then head to a water park in Branson later that night, McCall said, but McCall had a "horrible feeling" her daughter would get into an accident if they drove to Branson at night.
Stacy hugged her mom and told her she would call.
"She didn't cut her cake that night," McCall said. "She was going to cut it the next day."
Just two hours later, Stacy called. They weren't going to Branson. Instead, she would be staying the night at a friend's house and she would call her mother in the morning.
However, a little after 2 a.m., Stacy and Suzie left the party and went to Suzie's home.
"I didn't ever get that call in the morning," McCall said.
McCall would get thousands of phone calls about her daughter — tips, crank calls, cruel jokes and more — but no call from her daughter.
McCall said she still gets calls about the missing women.
"We had people call us and tell us they put them in a vat, and some people said they'd all been frozen and cut up into pieces and put into a kiln."
It has been 25 years since the disappearance of three women in Springfield, a cold case that remains under investigation. (Photo: News-Leader file photo)
Even the most unlikely tip gets forwarded on to police, McCall said.
For a while, she said, she and her husband paid an "ex-con" to search for their daughter.
"He said he could get in places that the police couldn't," McCall said. "He led us up and down the garden path and took our money."
McCall said she had even arranged through friends to have a helicopter ready in case her daughter needed to be immediately picked up somewhere.
"I had a lot of people who were willing to help us," she said. "I think people would have done anything to help us find them."
Sometimes people still recognize McCall as the mother of Stacy, McCall said, especially when she's out with one of her other two daughters. Often people tell her they're praying for her and her missing daughter, she said.
"I love the community. I love Springfield," McCall said. "The people have been friendly."
Looking back at the initial investigation, McCall said she is thankful for all the officers, sheriff's deputies, state troopers, law enforcement agents, firefighters and volunteers who helped search.
The flyer for the three missing women, Sherrill Levitt, Suzie Streeter and Stacy McCall. (Photo: News-Leader File Photo)
However, McCall said law enforcement officials didn't always work well together.
There were weekly conferences on Wednesday afternoons where representatives from Springfield police, the Greene County Sheriff's Office, the highway patrol and more would sit around a table.
"I think sometimes they came and they didn't check their egos at the door," McCall said.
She said she still believes the organizations haven't shared all their information about the three missing women with each other.
McCall recalled how early in the investigation, the highway patrol volunteered to bring a "whole truckload of computers" down to help with the investigation, but the Springfield Police Department declined.
Computers would have been much more effective at tracking information than the 3x5-inch note cards used by police, McCall said.
A Quarter Century of Questions: The Disappearance of the 3 Missing Women
Ozarks First KOLR 10 News
By: David Oliver
Posted: May 31, 2017 10:07 PM CDT | Updated: May 31, 2017 10:20 PM CDT
SPRINGFIELD,Mo. -- Twenty-five years ago a missing persons case would unravel in Springfield that remains a mystery, prompting a quarter century of questions.
It was June 7, 1992, when Stacy McCall, Sherrill Levitt and Suzie Streeter would vanish without a trace. The three-missing women case has perplexed people for years. It's perhaps Springfield's coldest case.
We're going to revisit many aspects of this story over the next several nights as we hit the quarter century mark of the women's disappearance. Up first, a look back at what happened that night through the memories of a mother.
"Stacy this is your mom. Please call me at home. Bye," says Janis McCall in a 1992 phone message.
Phone messages of concern that would grow into fear on the night of June 7, 1992. That night 18-year-old Stacy McCall and 19-year-old Suzie Streeter graduated from Kickapoo High School.
"After all the graduation stuff we went out to eat. And, then Stacy went home with us and she immediately started changing clothes and I said, wait, you can't change clothes yet, we've got pictures out back" recalls Janis McCall, Stacy's mother.
Stacy would oblige her mother's photo request, then met up with Streeter so the two could attend planned parties to celebrate graduation. After making several stops, the girls returned to Streeter's home that she shared with her mother, Sherrill Levitt. But from that night on, Levitt, Streeter and McCall would never be heard from again.
"We had no idea there was a crime scene there, you know that you don't expect it you're looking for your daughter and trying to find out what happened" says McCall.
Janis McCall recalls going to Levitt's home 25 years ago and finding the purses of all three women. There was no sign of a struggle, only a broken glass bulb over the front porch light. Police believe the three women went missing sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.
"I remember when the police department came up and two officers came in. And I explained what was going on. And I walked them through the house. So, the officers said we're going to go outside and discuss this and look around a little bit. And they looked all around the house and kind of down the street a little bit. And when they came back in they said we're going to file this as a missing persons case, foul play suspected" says McCall.
Janis McCall immediately began calling radio and tv stations to spread word about the missing women. She made posters with pleas to help bring the women home.
"I don't remember if it was that day or night that the crime scene van was pulled in front of Suzie and Sherrill's house and that yellow tape was put up saying crime scene. And not to enter," says McCall.
From that day on Janis McCall and her family were in constant contact with police, tracking down leads and fielding phone calls with tips that would most often lead nowhere.
"I remember the different calls that they would say they had seen them. They said they had seen Stacy driving a little red sports car down Battlefield. Well it wasn't Stacy it was our oldest daughter. I remember calls that said they were cut up into pieces. I remember one that said they were fed to the hogs. You know horrifying things for a mom to hear," says McCall.
McCall went on to establish a network called One Missing Link. It aimed to help other families with a missing loved one. It's not as active today and she doesn't visit the police station as much anymore either.
But just as she's done all these years, Janis McCall still holds out hope that one day we might learn the truth about what really happened to Springfield's three missing women.
"If the police still follow every lead that comes in and follow it to ends end one of these days we are going to find out because somebody knows. The only thing my gut can say is that three women are missing. They disappeared without a trace, I have no idea where they went, who took them. You know I would absolutely love it if one of them called me" says McCall.
Janis McCall says at one time all 32 detectives employed by the Springfield Police Department were in some way dedicated to the case of the three missing women.
We have several reports coming up over the next several nights as we mark a quarter century of this cold case. We'll hear from some of the original investigators, we'll look at false leads over the years, and we'll hear from journalists about what it was like to cover the case of the three missing women.
June 1, 2017
A Quarter Century of Questions: Detectives Consumed by the 3 Missing Women
By: Grant Sloan
Posted: Jun 01, 2017 10:04 PM CDT | Updated: Jun 01, 2017 10:04 PM CDT
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The case of the three missing women not only captured the attention of community members, it consumed many of the men and women working the case.
Even 25 years later, some of them still think about the women daily.
We sat down with men who were on the ground from the beginning and one officer who picked up the torch ten years into the investigation.
"I wish we had solved that case back then, but I pray daily that this case is solved before I leave this world. I won't have to get up to glory to see the girls to see what happened," Retired Sgt. David Asher with the Springfield Police Department said.
Asher helped lead the investigation into the disappearance of Sherrill Levitt, her daughter, Suzie Streeter and Streeter's friend, Stacy McCall (SP.).
Just days into their disappearance, Asher's team was tasked with finding answers many detectives are still searching for today.
"My team and I worked days and nights and many, many hours. We were overwhelmed, we were confronted with issues we had never been confronted with before," Asher said.
Some of those challenges are well known.
Among them, one of the most important pieces of any case, the condition of the crime scene.
In the hours leading up to police being contacted, family members and friends were inside the home trying to make sense of the situation.
"I'm not blaming anybody. A family is concerned is going to do everything they can do," Asher said.
"Anytime you walk into a crime scene, you take something in. Anytime you leave the crime scene you take something out," Ron Worsham said.
Worsham was the assistant police chief in 1992.
He says early on the department threw everyone and everything at the case.
In those days DNA evidence wasn't used, but detectives did use a fumigating technique to pull fingerprints from the home.
"And of course, we had thousands of prints at that point and time...we didn't have the automatic print system at that time. So really the only way prints did you any good back then is if you had a suspect to compare them too," Worsham said.
There were also thousands of tips that poured in from the community.
"Every tip that came in, you couldn't afford not to check it out. Because any tip could have been credible," Worsham said.
Investigators went to great, and at times, unconventional lengths following some of those leads.
A person was called in who claimed to be able to communicate with the dog that was left behind.
A woman who provided information about a green van seen in the area was hypnotized.
Investigators managed to track a phone call from the show America's Most Wanted to a store in Louisiana.
"That person actually fit the description of some of the information we had that could of been involved in the abduction. That person was going to call back and never did."
Going to the public for help may have been a doubled-edged sword though, as many of those interviewed by police were aware of the latest information.
"It just gets a lot out there to where detectives might be hindered in their attempts to solve it or follow up on leads property," Greg Higdon of the SPD said.
Springfield Police Captain Higdon brought a fresh set of eyes to the case in 2001.
"It's very intimidating, I mean there were at that time 5,000 plus leads, going in a variety of different directions," Higdon said.
Higdon re-interviewed family members and friends and combed through evidence.
Before his promotion in 2006, he had filed more than 400 new reports on the case.
"There were some that came in that were good leads, other leads were maybe not a lot of information: Maybe a sighting or, 'I think this person did it' or that person, but not much to go on," Higdon said.
"I think we did everything we probably could, but you never know what you might have missed. That's always in the back of your mind," Worsham said.
Worsham says in later years as sheriff of Webster County he still followed leads on the missing women.
And, even in his retirement, as he hears of other missing persons cases, many of the memories come back.
"I think about this case every day, today. Back in June the 7th, 1992 is when it started," Asher said.
Each investigator has their own theories, only parts of which they are willing to share.
"I firmly believe one of them was being stalked for some time before the crime was ever committed," Worsham said.
"I personally believe we have talked to that person or persons responsible," Asher said.
While the answers are still unknown, the investigators agree someone out there has the missing pieces.
"I will tell ya, that every person on the department when I was there, I retired in 95, will be thrilled, and everyone involved in this case since then will be ecstatic, that it would be resolved," Asher said.
As we continue this in-depth look at the case leading up to June 7, we will spend time Friday night examining the numerous false leads that frustrated investigators.
June 2, 2017
A Quarter Century of Questions: A Number of False Leads
By: Melanie Chapman
Posted: Jun 02, 2017 10:21 PM CDT | Updated: Jun 02, 2017 11:30 PM CDT
A Quarter Century of Questions...
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It was a case that shocked the community, three women go missing nearly 25 years ago.
Dozens of investigators, hundreds of tip calls, even some from around the world.
This week, we've been reexamining the case of Springfield's missing women as we lead up to the June 7th "missing date."
Reporter Melanie Chapman discusses the false leads that made this crime so confounding.
What happened to these three missing Springfield women? Stacy McCall, Suzie Streeter (SP) and Sherrill Levitt. It’s a case that received national attention.
A mystery, that even decades later people are still talking about.
Former Prosecuting Attorney Darrell Moore says, "Everybody on this case wanted it resolved."
Moore was one of dozens of investigators who spent days, sleepless nights and hundreds of hours trying to solve this case. Today he still has hope the answer, so many have worked and prayed for, will come.
"Through the years there have been various leads but it got to the point where even today I still get calls from people." Moore said.
Moore acknowledges, it has been frustrating. There wasn't one rock they didn't overturn. They had to take every tip seriously. Many leads, none were solid.
Moore says, "There was a dig up over in Webster Co. because there was a rumor they had been taken by a certain person. Abused, chopped up and spread a creek or spread in a cave there were searches over there."
Early on, there were tips about a green van. This is a vehicle that was seen around 1717 East Delmar in Springfield.
Police received a tip from a woman who claims she saw a van, being driven by who she thought was Suzie Streeter the morning of the disappearance. Yelling at the driver telling her to get out of there. Police searched thousands of vans, they posted the model all over the media. Even painted one green and kept it outside the police department. Tips about the van and the missing women kept flooding in.
"I was appointed special prosecutor in Barry co because of a lead by the Highway Patrol we had received and there was a dig down there on a property but at the time it seemed promising. It seemed to fit certain facts that we thought we knew at the time." Moore said.
That fateful night, Stacy and Suzie graduated. They went to numerous parties and Stacy ended up spending the night at Suzie's home. The next morning Stacy's family went to the house after not hearing from their daughter. They found the girl's purses and no sign of a struggle. The pet dog was the only sign of life in the house.
Retired Springfield Police Sergeant David Asher says, "I just felt like when we were given the case, when we actually got it late, we didn't start from the very beginning."
Asher was one of the lead investigators. He worked alongside Ron Worsham also with Springfield Police.
Worsham says, "Well we looked at her brother cause there had been some problems there they were I don't know if it was true or false."
Worsham is talking about Bartt (SP) Streeter, Suzie's Brother. His alibi at the time of the disappearance apparently checked out. Then there was a tip that the women were buried under the south parking lot of Cox Hospital. It was under construction soon after the disappearance. A theory, Moore says with no credible evidence.
That was bulldozed to prepare the parking garage for the cement that's at the bottom of the garage. Well part of the debris left out there is remains of trees and stumps and so we were told the anomalies out there were not bodies out but were probably debris.
Then there's Robert Craig Cox. A man released from a Florida prison on a trial technicality. He had been convicted of killing a woman in Florida but was free and in Springfield at the time the women disappeared.
Moore says, "He stirred up a lot of interest and there was some concern that he may have been playing people so he could get transported back here and get out of prison for a bit."
Dustin Reckla was a former acquaintance of Suzie (SP) Streeter. She was about to testify against him on charges he broke into a mausoleum to steal gold from the deceased. Police were very interested in Reckla and two accomplices but hope there quickly faded.
Worsham says, "If you can clear those three people who were persons of interest, we were kind of left with no suspects"
While many of the leads turned up false they still hold out hope the right tip could be developed even 25 years later.
June 3, 2017
A Quarter Century of Questions: Journalists Recall Missing Women Case from 25 Years Ago
By: Jennifer Kielman
Posted: Jun 03, 2017 09:34 PM CDT | Updated: Jun 03, 2017 09:34 PM CDT
A Quarter Century of Questions
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It'll be 25 years on Wednesday when three women, Suzanne Streeter, Stacy McCall and Sherrill Levitt, went missing in Springfield.
The three went missing from Levitt's home. Even through extensive investigations and searches, to this day, they are still nowhere to be found.
Most people who lived in the Queen City during that time, remember it well.
That also holds true for the journalists who covered it.
KOLR10's Assistant Director Lissa Hamblen says, "I think most journalists who were here, working and have worked throughout the years on this story, they probably have spent time thinking about it at night, ya know, at 3 o'clock in the morning. And, you're like -- where are they?"
"That was a Monday Morning. And, I was working at KTTS as a traffic reporter." KOLR10's Managing Editor Karen Libby said.
Lissa Hamblen says, "I worked here (KOLR). I was producing. I must've been dayside cause the memory that sticks out is the morning meeting."
KOLR10's Assignment Editor Bil Tatum says, "I was in the newsroom at the News Leader."
Karen Libby says, "As I was driving around that morning, I heard one of the officers say, the porch light is broken out."
Bil Tatum says, "Something wasn't right. We heard on the scanner that indicated there was something going on at that location on Delmar."
"I was there shortly after 8 and started getting this information together. And, I think we went on the air with it at 8:30." Karen Libby said.
Lissa Hamblen says, "Our news director at the time, Steve Snyder, immediately brought this up as one of our potential stories for that day. And said, what is going on? I'm hearing something about 3 women who haven't shown up. They're missing from a house in Springfield and they're just gone."
Bil Tatum says, "They were gone in such unusual circumstances. You wouldn't expect, I mean having the mom be one of the people who disappeared was part of the unusualness about the story. And the girls had just come off on what was one of the happiest nights of their life probably. They graduated. They had been partying, been enjoying the evening with their friends. They had plans for the next day. They were expected to be some place the next day. And, it just didn't look good. It didn't look good that there was no explanation for why they would have left behind their purses, their keys, their cigarettes. Smokers don't do that."
Lissa Hamblen says, "I can't imagine if it's like one person who took them-- how did they take three people without leaving anything that connected them?"
"Cars in the driveway. Their belongings. Their clothes. That's what was really so scary.", Bil Tatum said.
Karen Libby says, "And, it just took off from there."
Bil Tatum says, "In the days that followed, it became a much bigger story as things kept going on and on. And there was no, nothing to explain this bizarre, mysterious disappearance."
Lissa Hamblen says, "The first week or so, you really thought, it was just going to resolve. It was going to have an ending of some sort. And, it didn't."
"It's the craziest story. And, it went on forever.' Karen Libby said.
Lissa Hamblen says, "Weeks went by. And, eventually years. And, every anniversary since that time, we do the one year, the five year, the ten year. And it just keeps going."
Karen Libby says, "The thing that's just boggling even now is that, we don't have any answers at all. I mean, they had 24, 25 thousand documents in the case file."
Bil Tatum says, "They had so many leads, thousands of leads, thousands of tips. All those people working on them."
Karen Libby says, "They had FBI experts. Some very smart people all over the country examine that case."
Bil Tatum says, "And we had all the tips about the van, the tips about every disturbed pile of dirt in Missouri became suspicious to somebody."
Karen Libby says, "And, it's gone nowhere. They vanished. How do three people vanish? And, that's what continues to keep people's attention on this. Who would ever think I would still be talking about a crime like this, a case like this, a quarter of a century later. It's just crazy."
"Watching that family agonize and grasp for whatever they can, just to get some resolution. That's with every story I think. I think, all of us watch families hurt. And, journalists feel that. We feel their pain and watching her hurt has not been easy. It has not been easy for anybody. I want something to end on this so she can breathe. And, her husband can breathe. I want their family to know something. That would be the ending, regardless of what it is. Just to know would help.", Lissa Hamblen said.
Karen Libby says, "We all want to know what happened. Those women have become our women."
Libby, Hamblen, and Tatum are current employees of KOLR10.
When Karen Libby worked for KTTS 25 years ago, she says, they were the first to report the incident.
June 4, 2017
A Quarter Century of Questions: Community Can't Forget the 3 Missing Women
By: Collin Lingo
Posted: Jun 04, 2017 10:01 PM CDT | Updated: Jun 04, 2017 10:01 PM CDT
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- As KOLR10 continues its look back into the disapearance of Springfield's three missing women, we're left asking - who else is struggling to come to terms with the event 25 years later?
A reporter sought to find those in the Ozarks who have yet to call the event one of the past, those who take some part of the 25 year old case with them every day, or in other words, those who refuse to forget.
The faces of Sherrill (SP) Levitt, her daughter Suzie Streeter and Streeter's high school friend Stacy McCall have been preserved in photographs and videos for the past 25 years.
Whether it's through a blog dedicated to their return, or an article in a magazine recounting their disappearance - like this one, recently published by Kickapoo High School Streeter and McCall's alma mater.
It's clear, these photographs are still penetrating the community's memory.
Another spot those faces can be found today is at Coyote Adobe's Bar and Cafe in Springfield.
"Years and years and years," David Bauer, Coyote Adobe's owner, said. "It's hung right there in that spot for 25 years."
Bauer knows the poster hanging in his front window has seen better days.
"We got it laminated," Bauer said. "It's an ugly piece of paper but it's an ugly deal."
But, taking it down would mean breaking a promise.
"It was maybe the second day after it happened," Bauer said.
He made a call a quarter century ago to Stacy McCall's mom, Janis.
"Janis came by and she dropped off a flyer and she asked me if I'd hang it in the window. And I said 'I'll leave it up until they come back,'" Bauer said.
As it turns out, Bauer isn't alone. There are still so many people across the state perplexed by this case. As for why, one former prosecutor says it's hard not to fixate on a problem with such a frustrating lack of answers.
"With no idea of who did it, how it was done, or where they were taken, I mean, it's totally an exceptional event," Darrell Moore, former prosecutor, said.
At the time of the women's disappearance, Moore was a chief assistant prosecutor in Greene County.
"Since then it's disturbed, and rightly disturbed people for the last quarter century," Moore said.
These days, he travels the state as a special prosecutor, finding one commonality in every place he goes.
"When I go to other counties, judges, lawyers, defense lawyers, prosecutors or even people still ask me, what's the inside scoop and I have to tell them 'I don't have any kind of scoop," Moore said.
While sheer curiosity and shock play a role here, Moore says another factor is certainly fear.
"I think in the back of a lot of people's minds is 'could it happen to me?'. The randomness of it. I think it scared people then and it scares people today," Moore said.
It's not just the fear related to what happened.
"Even 25 years later, it's hard. And I don't even know them," Bauer said.
But also the fear of what could happen.
"I wouldn't get rid of it. If it saved one girl, coming in here, seeing that picture and thinking 'I better be safe tonight," Bauer said.
And, maybe worst of all, fear that we'll never see more of these women than just their photographs.
"Hopefully it'll be gone," Bauer said.
Now you heard there, the bar owner mentioned his contact with Janis McCall (SP), Stacy's mom. Coming up tomorrow, we'll hear more from Janis McCall (SP) about how she has done her best to heal over the past 25 years.
June 5, 2017
A Quarter Century of Questions: Families Of 3 Missing Women Try to Cope
By: Melanie Chapman
Posted: Jun 05, 2017 10:32 PM CDT | Updated: Jun 05, 2017 10:32 PM CDT
Springfield, Mo. -- They vanished without a trace - Stacy McCall, Suzie Streeter and Sherrill Levitt.
Through the years there were many leads, some appeared strong but investigators say they never turned up any credible evidence.
"We were on a roller coaster that would go up and down and up and down and that roller coaster would say, we think we have them," said Janis McCall, Stacy's mother.
Twenty-five years later there is no sign of the women and no known suspect. For the families of the missing women, coping with the disappearance over the years has changed them. Janis and her husband, Stuart, have grandchildren today.
"We became even more protective of our family. I still don't want my daughters going shopping, even if it’s at the mall or Walmart or wherever by themselves," Janis said.
From the beginning, Janis stayed in constant contact with investigators, posted fliers, received phone calls at her home some hateful, others seemingly helpful. Sherrill's (SP.) sister and Suzie's aunt, Deb Schwartz, lives in Arizona.
"It was hard for us, it was very hard for us because we weren't there and we felt like gosh, we aren't doing like what Janis could do," Deb said.
Schwartz said she still has a lot of anger. Living with no answers and no sign of their loved ones has taken its toll on the family. Her mother and father have since passed.
"He was 75 when he died and I think he would have had a much longer life without that stress. I think it ate at him, being a father and knowing that in his mind he failed to protect his daughter or to bring it to any conclusion was very hard. It is very hard for all of us, we can't do anything," Deb said.
Deb and Janis both are aware of the many possibilities as to what may have happened and who could have done it. Both come back to one man as a likely suspect: Robert Craig Cox. He was convicted of killing a woman in Florida but was released on a trial technicality. He was in Springfield at the time of the disappearance.
"He was fully capable of doing it. He had, he actually had worked with the same place that my husband worked Reliable Chevrolet." Janis said.
Cox would have very well seen Stacy, her sisters and her friends when they would visit her father at work," Janis said.
"Cox is probably the most logical choice. There are so many ways that he fit. and he's pretty much a sociopath from the interviews I've seen," said Deb.
With all the emotional suffering, the families have endured the past 25 years, it's their faith that has helped guide them through.
"I take comfort in believing that my dad is with Sherrill and Suzie and knows what happened now. You know happened and know that they're in heaven and they're in a happy place and a better place than this world and my mom's there too," Deb said.
Janis said she still struggles with depression at times.
"I turned this over to God probably three or four weeks after she disappeared. I said I just can't handle anymore you've got to do it because I can't and I do think that's a part of it. I do have a good relationship with God and I know that in his own time, he'll let me know. It might be long after I've gone and can be a blink of an eye and it’s been 25 years, so maybe he's only blinked once and may take that second blink," Janis said.
The families still hold out hope, someone will do the right thing, and come forward with solid information on this case. They know it’s highly unlikely the women are alive - they just want to bring them home.
June 6, 2017
A Quarter Century of Questions: Escaping A Digital Fingerprint
By: Daniel Shedd
Posted: Jun 06, 2017 09:10 PM CDT | Updated: Jun 06, 2017 09:49 PM CDT
3 Missing Women Stories
A Quarter Century of Questions...
A Quarter Century of Questions: The...
SPRINGFIELD, Mo -- It's been 10 years since the first iPhone came out. That was in 2007.
Facebook and Myspace came on the scene around three years before that, in 2004.
It's hard to believe, but you would have to venture 12 more years in times past to get a glimpse of technology in 1992.
Tracking crimes was much different back then. They didn't have what detectives now call a 'Digital Fingerprint'.
“They left the party at Battlefield, somewhere around 2 a.m., and their vehicle was found around 12 p.m. at the Delmar address,” said David Millsap. “We would have been able to get an idea of their route just based on their cell phone.”
Current Laclede County Sherriff, David Millsap, started with the Springfield Police Department a year and a half after that fateful day in 1992.
“I really, truly believe that it’s the case that haunts the Springfield Police Department,” said Millsap.
He led a comprehensive review of the case, including over 25,000 documents just three years ago. The conclusion, is one that still runs cold.
“This is one of those tragic tales where the case just hasn’t been solved, and you hope for the best because the family certainly deserves that,” said Millsap.
Millsap is not one to make excuses as to why the case wasn’t solved, although he cited numerous holes he saw within the investigation. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.
He said that it’s often a fallacy that a big task force can get the job done. While sometimes successful, this sometimes opens the door to a botched crime scene.
There’s too many hands to stir the pot.
He also sited technological restrictions. They didn’t have cell phones or social media, like Facebook. The technological age was just an infant.
Which begs the question, how would have this case been different if it would have happened today?
“If the event happened today, the first thing investigators would start looking for are those digital footprints,” explained David Millsap.
We’ve all heard privacy concerns in recent years. Things like IP addresses and cell phone towers. They’re traceable by detectives, but Dr. Shannon McMurtrey with Drury University explains that it’s accessible to everyone.
“If you post on social media, take a picture and share that on the internet, or do anything involved with an IP address, we can deduce where you’ve been,” said Dr. Shannon McMurtrey.
He pointed out a quick search on a free website, www.socialbearing.com.
With a few clicks of the mouse, here’s a view of all the twitter activity within downtown Springfield over the last 3 days.
Each of those triangles represent a different tweet, and can be filtered down to individual users.
“When you ask people if they care about privacy, they will tell you that they really are not, especially younger generations. They really don’t care," said Dr. McMurtrey.
"It’s only when you start to show them how much of their privacy that they are giving up, without realizing it, that they start to care."
It's an advantage they didn’t have back in 1992.
“Back then you couldn’t even track local telephone calls,” said Millsap. “You had to have a trap on the phone. Someone could make that call locally, but there was no way to trace that call.”
In today’s day and age, it’s nearly impossible to escape a digital fingerprint.
Have you ever walked out of work, only for your phone to say it will take 20 minutes to drive home?
Or maybe you were downtown, and your phone beeps, reminding you how to get to your parked car.
That’s because our smart phones have been following us: Tracking every step we have taken in our journey together.
It’s not some rogue software that was downloaded in the background, or a new fancy app that you need to uninstall. It comes standard on most devices.
And the best part?
Most of us accept those terms when we turn on our phones for the first time.
“It really drove the way we handled major cases, and the way we thought about things," said Sheriff Millsap.
"I can remember many times with a missing persons case, and thinking that back I needed to do things right, right from the beginning."
"The ending starts with the beginning of the case. The things we do at the beginning of case often determine how the case will turn out,” said Millsap.
Your Digital Fingerprint (iPhone Users)
For iPhone users, there is a simple way to find out where your iPhone has been following you. This will be available if you accepted and enabled 'location services' when you first received the phone.
1. Click on Settings
2. Scroll down to Privacy
3. Click on Location Services
4. Scroll down to the bottom and tap on System Services
5. Scroll down to the bottom of the first section of services (just above 'Product Improvement'), and find Frequent Locations
If enabled (green), you will be able to click into your history of recent locations, (i.e 'Springfield, Missouri' or 'Branson, Missouri') and then on individual addresses that you have visited.
Each 'location' will tell you when you visited, how many times you visited, and for how long.
June 7, 2017
Public Invited to Observance for Three Missing Women Tonight
The three vanished on this date, 25 years ago
By: Brennon Gurley
Posted: Jun 07, 2017 05:17 AM CDT | Updated: Jun 07, 2017 07:21 AM CDT
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Today marks 25 years since three women vanished from a home in Springfield. Tonight, the community will come together to remember the lives of Stacy McCall, Suzanne Streeter, and her mother, Sherrill Levitt.
The Victim's Memorial Garden in Phelps Grove Park in Springfield Is a somber place where families can pause and remember those lost to violence. Hailey Owens is remembered here, as are the area victims of 9-11.
But tonight, the community will celebrate the lives of three women whose final story is still unwritten.
"She had $50 in cash and she had her swimming suit and she had her little bitty makeup thing that was just a little makeup pouch and I said, aren't you going to take a towel and she said, 'No, I'll just use one of theirs. I don't want to get mine dirty,'" remembers Janis McCall, whose daughter, Stacy, vanished on June 7, 1992.
Janis says June 7, 1992 changed her and the community forever. "She headed off and we said our goodbyes and kissed good bye."
It's then that two high school graduates and a mother would disappear without a trace, only to leave investigators and family members looking for answers.
"Had no idea that, that would be the last time we would see our daughter," McCall says.
Janis McCall can't believe the case is at the 25-year mark. "Would love to know where she was. I'd love to bring her back and be able to have a service for them."
She still holds up hope that she gets the answers to her daughter’s disappearance. "I have no idea where they went, who took them, you know I would love it. Absolutely love it. If they called me. If one of them call me."
McCall and Sherrill Levitt's sister, Deb Schwartz, say few understand their nightmare. "But, you know what. That doesn't matter because I know that God's got this. He's the one that I put my faith in and I know that he's not going to let harm come to her anymore."
"The most important thing is that this person is caught and punished. And that this person doesn't do this ever again to anybody," Schwartz says.
Neither woman believes their loved ones are still alive. "When you're dealing with no answers it seems like the worst thing," Schwartz says. But no one knows exactly what happened.
"If you know something say something absolutely that would be my biggest hope for this."
The families have never given up hope the three will be found.
"Hopefully people are watching or looking at this will say you know, that they have someone they love," says Schwartz. "Whoever it is. Wife, mother, sister and put themselves in the place of losing them like this and come forward."
Everyone is invited to join and share in celebrating the lives of the three missing women at the Victims Memorial Garden, starting at 7:30 p.m. You're asked to bring a battery-operated candle for the observance.
25 years and no trace of 3 Missouri women: ‘People aren’t supposed to just disappear’
By Max Londberg | firstname.lastname@example.org And Laura Bauer | email@example.com
Date: June 07, 2017 7:00 AM
In the entryway of a southside bar hangs a tattered missing persons flyer, preserved in its torn and yellowed state by laminate.
Back in the summer of 1992, this flyer was one of thousands that blanketed the Ozarks. They hung in barbershops and grocery stores, gas stations and rest areas, any place where people could see them. Many were a bright yellow then with the word “Missing,” and they implored everyone to help bring home Sherrill Levitt, her daughter Suzie Streeter and friend Stacy McCall.
Today, on what marks a quarter century since the Springfield women disappeared, this flyer inside Coyote’s Adobe Cafe & Bar is one of the few that remain, its faded print proof that this southwest Missouri city hasn’t forgotten.
And Stacy’s mother says she can feel it.
“There are still so many people who know about it,” Janis McCall told The Star. “They come up to me, they talk about them. And it makes me feel good when I know people are still caring.”
It was June 7, 1992, when the three women vanished. The three haven’t been heard from since that day when friends showed up at Levitt’s home on East Delmar Street and found a broken porch light. Little else seemed out of place.
All three of the women’s cars were parked out front. Their purses and keys were inside the small white home. A smoker, Sherrill, 47, had left her cigarettes behind. And Stacy, 18, who battled migraines, hadn’t taken along her medication.
The young women, friends who had graduated from Kickapoo High School the day before, had already gotten ready for bed. Then they, along with Levitt, just disappeared.
A lack of evidence or any real sign of foul play has frustrated a long line of detectives who have taken their turn at trying to solve the mystery.
“How do you wrap your head around three people literally disappearing? With no idea where they went?” said Sgt. Todd King, who started at the police department in 1994 and remembers as a rookie taking reports from people who had information they thought would be helpful. “In a lot of cold cases, you can look back and say this is probably what occurred, you just can’t prove it. With this case, it’s anything goes. Anything could have happened.
“You don’t have anything that says they were abducted, they were harmed. … It’s this big mystery.”
A bench in the Victims Memorial Garden at Phelps Grove Park is dedicated to the three missing women. The women’s names and the date of their disappearance are etched in its surface.
The sergeant now oversees the open investigation, which is assigned to Detective Scott Hill. Hill works the case and follows up on leads as they come in. And they still do, about one or two a month. But anymore, many of them are just rehashes of what came in years ago.
The mystery, too, has worn on the community and residents who back in the 1990s lived through the anxiety and months of constant headlines and newscasts about the case.
Nigel Holderby, now a 44-year-old mother living in Colorado, was Suzie’s best friend at the time of her disappearance.
“We all who love them would love to have answers, would love to know what happened, would love to have them here with us today,” Holderby said. “All over this period of time we have wondered every day and every year. It is mind-blowing to think about, something like that happening.
“People aren’t supposed to just disappear.”
That’s how David Bauer feels. He had owned Coyote’s Adobe Cafe just six months when he promised Janis McCall he wouldn’t take down the missing poster until her daughter came home.
His own daughter was just 3 years old that summer. And he couldn’t help but think then what would happen if he had lost her like McCall had lost Stacy.
“She was in such anguish,” Bauer said. “I kind of felt how she was feeling in her eyes. … It’s burnt into my soul.”
Purses left behind
Stacy’s mother can still see the image of the women’s purses in her mind. They were at the bottom of the steps leading down to Suzie’s room.
So many who lived this case, who have been haunted by it since, have something about the home or that day that replays in their mind. For some it’s the busted porch globe or the fact that the two friends had already gotten ready for bed with their makeup-smeared washcloths in the hamper.
For McCall, it’s the purses.
They were all lined up: First there was Sherrill’s, then Suzie’s and Stacy’s was next, sitting on top of Suzie’s overnight bag.
McCall remembers how things were rolling out of the purses. And inside Suzie’s room — where the TV was left on — Stacy’s flowered shorts were folded and put on top of her sandals. Stacy’s jewelry had been tucked inside the pocket of her shorts.
Looking around the house in the night hours of June 7, McCall and her husband, Stu, knew something wasn’t adding up.
The recent graduates weren’t supposed to spend the night there. They had planned to go to parties that June 6 evening and then, with others, head to Branson and stay in a hotel. The next morning they’d go to a water park.
On graduation night, Stacy called her mom at 10:30 and said she planned to stay with another friend and the group would go to Branson in the morning. But plans changed again, and Stacy decided to go home with Suzie and sleep on her new, king-sized waterbed.
Suzie led the way to Delmar Street and Stacy followed in her car.
When a friend of the two came looking for them the next afternoon to go to Branson, no one was home. The door was unlocked, and Cinnamon the family’s Yorkie yapped at the friend’s ankles.
The last known location of Stacy McCall, Suzie Streeter and Sherrill Levitt is this home on East Delmar Street.
Initially, no one thought anything bad had happened, they just wondered where in the world the women had gone.
Officers weren’t called to the home until some 10 hours after friends had discovered the three were gone, King said. By then, a friend of the girls had swept up the broken glass on the porch as a favor to Levitt. And nearly a dozen people had been in the home, all walking on carpet and sitting on chairs and couches.
All of that hindered police as they began to investigate.
For months, officers searched parks and lakes, woods and subdivisions. They were told to watch for circling buzzards and to check foul-smelling trash cans. They followed up when people swore they’d seen the women at a restaurant or the airport.
“We followed leads, we followed tips — some of them that were a little extreme,” said Terry Knowles, the Springfield police chief when the women disappeared. “But we did everything we felt was needed to be done. We committed untold resources to this case.”
But many through the years have criticized Knowles for what they called his micromanaging of the case. They said he ran the investigation out of his office rather than allowing his detectives to do their jobs.
Knowles, now living out retirement in Kansas, defended his leadership and the early investigation.
“We worked as a unit, as a team at the time,” he said. “Everyone was committed to this case and we did the best we could.”
In the first days, information surfaced about an old Dodge van. One woman said she saw a young woman driving the van who looked like Suzie, her face frightened, and heard a man’s voice saying, “Don’t do anything stupid.”
At one point, police parked a similar van outside headquarters, asking for help.
Today, investigators aren’t sure if the van was actually a true clue or a distraction that was never part of the case.
“I want to say we’re kind of in the same place we were 10 years ago,” King said. “We have those persons of interest, people we can’t rule out. We’re still looking for those handful of pieces to put in the puzzle that will help us solve the case.
“It may not be while I’m here, but I do think it will be solved.”
‘It changes how you view the world’
After Suzie disappeared, Holderby, then 19, had recurring nightmares where she frantically searched for her best friend.
The two had met while working at the Town & Country movie theater in town. Holderby said their bond was immediate, the pair connecting during their very first shift together in the box office.
“You know those people you just meet and it’s like you’ve known them forever? This is how it was,” she said.
For months after the disappearance, some memory would surface from their time together, some detail Holderby hadn’t yet shared with investigators. She’d contact them, desperate to provide the clue that led to more clues, to a resolution.
“As human beings, I feel like we look at all these things and think, ‘That is the one weird thing, that’s the clue.’ We want to be helpful and share every little thing,” Holderby said.
But clues never materialized. Suzie never returned. Two years passed, and Holderby had her first child — a daughter that she named Elizabeth, Suzie’s middle name.
Another two years went by, and Holderby had a second daughter and named her Suzann, again in memory of her friend.
She later had a third daughter and raised her children in Springfield before moving to Colorado nine months ago. The vigilance with which she parented is because of Suzie, and Stacy, and Sherrill, and how they all simply vanished.
“My kids will probably say I’m crazy overprotective and overbearing. I never let them have any fun. But when you lose something like that, it changes how you view the world,” she said.
Holderby keeps two photos of Suzie, placed on a bookshelf in her dining room. One is Suzie’s senior photo, placed in front of another picture of Holderby’s three children.
The other was taken June 6, 1992, hours before the women disappeared and the last time Holderby saw Suzie and Sherrill.
“I took her a (graduation) cake, and her mom took a picture of us together,” she said.
Suzie Streeter (left) and Nigel Holderby (right) celebrated Suzie’s graduation with James Cornelison on June 6, 1972, hours before Suzie disappeared.
Others in the community may be less familiar with the case, but still it creeps into their minds on occasion.
“It kind of looms over,” said Kaitlin Baker, 24, a mother of two young children.
“I wish they would solve it. … You think about it sometimes. You’re like, ‘Wow, there were three girls — three of them and they still got taken.’”
‘They deserve to be remembered’
Before students at Springfield’s Kickapoo High headed into summer this year, their school’s magazine, KHQ Today, ran a lengthy piece about those who have simply become known as The Three Missing Women.
Student Tony Madden, who wrote the article with Magdelaine Mueller, grew up knowing about the case.
But too many students and teachers, he discovered, didn’t know what had happened in the summer of 1992. It’s why he wanted to write the story, which has been shared on social media 2,000 times.
“As so many years go by we kind of forget it’s a big deal,” said Madden, whose journalism adviser graduated with Stacy and Suzie. “I wanted the students at Kickapoo High School to know we hadn’t forgotten. … I think we forget that each is a person not just a missing person.”
It’s one reason McCall wants people to gather Wednesday night inside Springfield’s Victims Memorial Garden. She plans to have people share stories about each of the women and talk about who they were not what happened to them.
“They deserve to be remembered,” McCall said. “But let’s remember the fun things, not the dark and dreary. Let’s not remember how I felt back then, not remember that I used to get in the shower and cry.”
She plans to share a few stories about her daughter. Maybe the one where the family went out to eat the night before her graduation and instead of filling a bowl full of ice cream, she loaded it with gummy bears. Or maybe the one when she was a toddler and continued to say she was sick so she could go see the doctor she liked so much.
For years, McCall insisted she had hope that her daughter would come home. She’d be different, but she’d be home.
This year, a quarter century after she last saw her daughter, she admits that “facing reality has become more prominent.”
“It’s been 25 years and I know the chances of finding her are slim to none,” McCall said. “It’s not good to keep going on, thinking she’s going to come home every day.”
Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg
Laura Bauer: 816-234-4944, @kclaurab
Mom of 1 of 3 missing women from Springfield won't give up hope
Springfield's 25-year mystery: 3 missing women
By reporter Paula Morehouse and videographer Justin Haase, KY3 News |
Posted: Wed 1:25 PM, Jun 07, 2017
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It was a crime that shook Springfield to its core and made national headlines. June 7 marks 25 years since Sherrill (SP) Levitt, Suzie Streeter and Stacy McCall vanished without a trace from a home in central Springfield.
Their disappearance still haunts those closest to the investigation. The most visible relative of the three women, Stacy McCall's mother, says she'll never give up on finding her daughter.
The three women vanished into the night but Sherrill (SP) Levitt, her daughter Suzie Streeter, and her friend Stacy McCall, never left our lives. Fresh flowers adorn a bench built in their honor in Phelps Grove Park and their images, frozen from 1992, still hang in a few storefronts.
"There's no way I can picture her other then as she went out the door at 18,” said Janis McCall, Stacy’s mother.
McCall has never given up hope. Since the beginning, she's worked tirelessly, telling anyone and everyone about the three missing women.
The day that changed so many lives started with a celebration: Graduation Day for Stacy and Suzie. After a few parties, the two friends went to Suzie's house. That was the last time anyone reports seeing them and Levitt.
The mystery has fueled thousands of leads, theories, and rumors over the years.
In 2007, after speculation that the women were buried under a Cox South Hospital parking garage, a local writer hired a consulting engineer who used ground penetrating radar to scan the garage. The man running it said his machine picked up three distinct objects. McCall, though, isn't convinced.
"And it came about from a psychic and I told him at the time that was complete craziness,” she said on Tuesday.
Springfield police looked into the theory and also find it is not credible. They never requested that the parking garage concrete be destroyed to search under it.
Amid all the craziness, a number of paths led to people who might be involved. Police had questioned convict Robert Craig Cox, who was known to be in Springfield at the time of the disappearance. In 1996, KY3 News reporter Dennis Graves interviewed Cox in a Texas prison.
"I know that they are dead. I'll say that. And I know that,” Cox said in the interview.
"That's not a theory?" Graves asked
“I just know that they are dead. That's not my theory. I just know that. There's no doubt about that,” Cox said.
Cox refused to talk anymore.
No signs of the women have ever been found, no one was arrested, and no one was charged.
"Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think that it would be 25 years later and I would be saying, ‘Stacy is still missing,’” she said.
The public is invited to a celebration of the women's lives on Wednesday at the Victim's Memorial Garden in Phelps Grove Park. It starts at 7:30 p.m.
Mother talks about 25 years with no answers in Stacy McCall's disappearance
By reporter Paula Morehouse and videographer Justin Haase, KY3 News |
Posted: Wed 10:31 PM, Jun 07, 2017 | Updated: Wed 11:53 PM, Jun 07, 2017
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A quarter of a century is still not enough time to heal wounds when there are no answers.
"All I want to know is where they are. If you sold them to someone, let me know. If you have disposed of them in some horrendous manner, please let me know," pleaded Janis McCall.
The unknown has tortured McCall since her daughter, Stacy McCall, graduated from Kickapoo High School. After a few parties that night, Stacy and her friend, Suzie Streeter, went to Suzie's house to sleep over. It would be the last time anyone reported seeing them or Sherrill (SP) Levitt, Suzie's mom.
"I expected her home that night, the next day, maybe a couple of days afterward," McCall said in an interview on Tuesday. "Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think that it would be 25 years later and I would be saying Stacy still missing."
Though her daughter has been gone longer than the time McCall had with her, McCall's memories are crisp and comforting. Stacy, she said, was hilarious.
McCall recalled a period when her daughter was expanding her vocabulary.
"She'd say, 'much to my chagrin.'" Janis corrected her pronunciation of the word to which Stacy replied " 'Chagrin, what is that mom?' And I'd have to tell her it was chagrin. And she'd say, 'Do you think that's why everybody was looking at me funny today?' We'd have these talks over the dinner table, and we'd be hysterical," McCall said.
McCall holds onto those cherished moments from a time when she never imagined she wouldn't see her daughter on her 19th birthday, or the subsequent ones. The only new vision of Stacy arose when the family had to guess what she would look like to make age progression pictures for missing posters.
"You have to dream what she looks like now because I have no idea," McCall said. "I still go up to people that I can't see the front of them, if they have real long hair. I want to go to the front of them and see who they are."
Her 25-year quest to find Stacy has come up empty, and the three women's disappearance under suspicious circumstances remains a mystery.
McCall, though, vows never to give up believing her daughter could still come home.
"Until I know a hundred percent that Stacy is deceased I will never declare her dead," she said. "They're going to have to find some remains somewhere before I call her legally dead. It's not for any reason other than if I do and she's not dead, think of how mad she'd be when she gets back."
McCall said she still talks about her daughter publicly because she hopes that what she has to say will one day prompt someone who knows something to step forward.
Continuing the Investigation 25 Years Later
By: Jenifer Abreu
Posted: Jun 07, 2017 10:56 PM CDT | Updated: Jun 07, 2017 11:00 PM CDT
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- June 7, 2017, marks 25 years of unanswered questions empty theories and a mystery hanging over the City of Springfield.
Three women went missing and no evidence of what happened to them was left behind. But a quarter of a century later police are still investigating.
For 25 years, thousands of tips have come in and many theories considered, but police say there's simply not enough evidence that makes any of those theories a viable one. At this point, it would take that one person with that one piece of information to come forward.
"It's real, it happened in Springfield, Missouri," said David Asher, a retired detective who worked on the case years ago.
Three women, Sherrill Levitt, her daughter Suzie Streeter, and Suzie's friend Stacy McCall simply vanished from a Springfield home.
"It is a mystery," said Sgt. Todd King, with the Springfield Police Department. "Nobody knows what really happened."
What's likely become the city's most perplexing case began on June 7, 1992. And since then, it's like the same story has been told. And even 25 years later, it's still under investigation.
Sgt. King says they still receive two or three tips a month.
"I think what it tells you is that the community cares about the case," he said.
And every time the phone rings...
"You're always hopeful that that's the tip that's going to push you in the right direction or lead you down the right trail," said King.
He's currently working on the case and says it's always been an active investigation.
"Most of the time it's reviewing all of the old information and the old things that the other detectives that have come before them have done," he said.
In hopes that with more technology and a fresh set of eyes some new lead will come up.
"What you do is you have detectives that go back and you look at those tips and see what was done on it before," said King. "And with the new twist, they look into that angle on it. Or they may go back and re-interview old witnesses to see if they remember things from back then and things that they failed to talk to the officers about."
Some are doing their part to make sure the community doesn't forget. A missing person's poster with the women's photo has been taped to the door at Coyote Adobe Bar and Cafe for as long as they've been missing.
"It's there and it's been there every day since 1992," said David Bauer. "Through these reports in these milestones years, we hear 20 years, we hear 15, 10 and 25. People look at it and they comment about it. Not so much anymore, a lot of people don't know and don't understand because it was so long ago, many lives, I mean my cook wasn't even born yet."
A case that now, a quarter of a century old is touching across generations. And throughout the years... many theories have come across detectives' desks.
"Anybody that truly wants that one theory over the other to be the case, they can make it fit," said Sgt. King. "The reality is when you start to look into putting evidence with the theories and matching things up to make a person as a viable suspect as people think, we just don't have that right now."
Investigators who worked on this case say they are honored to have been trusted with a case that shook and still haunts a community.
"For me personally, I was proud to be able to work on that case," said Captain Greg Higdon, with the Springfield Police Department. "I was humbled that they wanted me to take a look at it and kind of see from a different angle, a different set of eyes."
The memories of the three women are still very real among their families, the police department and the entire community.
Everyone may have their own theories of what happened, but one thing they all have in common is there's still hope that someday, what could be described as the perfect crime, will be solved.
"I'm hopeful and very optimistic, that this case will be solved at some point," said Sgt. King.
"Somebody out there hopefully says 'you know, it's time. I've gotta let this go'," said Bauer.
"It's time for us to have some results," said Janis McCall, Stacy's mother.
"If you know anything, or if you think you know anything, call the Springfield Police Department," said Asher. "If you've done it in the past, and nobody is contacted you, do it again, and again. Because one of you, someone, knows something. And we can't, no police department can succeed without your involvement."
Janis McCall believes there will never really be closure but she, like so many others, still hold on to hope that someone, someday, will speak up.
"I don't have to know who it is, I just want the answers of where the three missing women are. That's all," she said.
Recalling the good times: Friends, family of 3 missing women celebrate lives not forgotten
Gathering celebrates lives of three missing women
By Reporter Mike Landis and Photojournalist Lance Green |
Posted: Wed 11:04 PM, Jun 07, 2017 | Updated: Wed 11:06 PM, Jun 07, 2017
Springfield, Mo It was a quarter century ago three women went missing from a home in Springfield. On Tuesday, the community gathered to remember the women and hope for closure once and for all.
The event was called a celebration of life and was a chance to remember a different time before the families' hearts were so tragically shattered, and the city lost part of its innocence. Those at the gathering took part in a candlelight vigil and a release of Japanese lanterns in honor of the three.
Suzanne and Stacy graduated from Kickapoo High School the night before the three disappeared without a trace. Sherrill is Suzanne's mother. Officers found all their personal belongings at home and no obvious sign of foul play. Springfield Police have investigated thousands of leads over the years, but no breaks.
Celebration of Life for Women Who Went Missing 25 Years Ago
By: Macy Marie
11:53 PM, Jun 7, 2017
Three women went missing in Springfield 25 years ago today.
Instead of a memorial, friends and family held a celebration of life at Phelps Grove Park in Springfield.
It started at 7:30.
People told fun stories about Sherrill Levitt, Suzie Streeter, and Stacy McCall.
"We went camping for spring break our senior year and it was cold... lots of good memories," one friend recalled.
After people told stories, candles were lit and four lanterns were let go for the women.
One lantern for each and the last was for all of them.
Stacy's mother, Janis McCall, had many stories about the group. She says this was not a memorial.
"Thank all of you for coming out here for the celebration of the lives of three women," she said to the crowd.
"We can't say they're gone," Stacy's father, Stuart McCall, said.
"This is my last candle light vigil. This is all I can handle...25 years," said Janis.