The Springfield Three revolves around the unsolved disappearances of 47-year-old single mother and cosmetologist, Sherrill Levitt, her 19-year-old daughter, Suzanne Streeter (often known as Suzie), and 18-year-old childhood friend, Stacy McCall.
During a period of Sherrill’s life, she and Suzanne relocated into a smaller home on East Delmar Street in Springfield, Missouri. Sherrill was a single mother working as a cosmetologist. She loved her profession at the local hair salon; so much so that her daughter had ambitions to become a stylist herself in the future.
On June 6th, 1992, Suzanne and Stacy graduated from Kickapoo High School. The two had plans for the future, but before they enrolled in college they made it a priority to enjoy the aftermath of graduation, embracing the summer weather and freedom before entering adulthood.
Later that evening after the ceremony, Suzanne, Stacy, and a mutual friend, Janelle Kirby set their eyes on traveling thirty minutes away to Branson, Missouri. Their plan was to stay at a hotel and attend the water park White Waters and an amusement park, Silver Dollar City.
For various reasons, they all decided to ignore the idea of spending the night at a hotel. Instead, they decided to spend the evening at Janelle’s home, but when they arrived they found her residence too crowded because of a handful of her relatives coming from all over Missouri were there to celebrate her graduation. At approximately 2:00 a.m. Suzanne and Stacy went back to Sherrill’s home and told Janelle they would call her in the morning to continue their plans.
From what is known, the last reported sighting of the two young women was on Battlefield Rd. at 2:30 in the morning. Despite how late the night was, many of the roads throughout the town were heavily busy due to graduation and the weekend. According to details of the case, it’s believed Suzanne and Stacy made it back to their destination without a hitch.
Earlier that night, Sherrill, the mother of Suzanne, was last heard from between the time frame of 11:00 – 11:30 p.m. speaking to a friend on the phone and working on a project. Throughout this three hour stretch nothing seemed to be amiss, yet what followed has baffled investigators for over 25 years.
On the following morning, Janelle called Sherrill’s home to reignite their plans for the day. She never received a response even though she was making numerous, along with leaving a message on the answering machine. At first, Janelle wasn’t that alarmed and thought the girls were still asleep, but since they had plans for the entirety of the day, Janelle and her boyfriend, Mike, decided to drive to Sherrill’s home close to 9 A.M. When they pulled in there weren’t any oddities. Three cars belonging to Suzanne, Stacy, and Sherrill were present, with her’s in the normal parking area under the carport. Her frame of mind changed rapidly once she got out of the car with Mike to knock on the front door.
Once Janelle and Mike were on the front porch they noticed the front door was left wide open. There had been broken glass scattered everywhere, coming from the globe that covers the light source, but the light itself was perfectly intact. When Janelle and Mike made their way inside, confusion began to seep in. The television was on but not on any specific channel–it was on a station that wasn’t available to them, causing static in the volume. As they continued their rounds of the home, both were shouting the names of Suzanne and Stacy, but it was to no avail.
The only signs of Sherrill, Suzanne, and Stacy were their purses, jewelry, and cigarettes, along with their makeup in the bathroom and the beds having signs of being slept in. The family dog — a terrier by the name of Cinnamon — was acting frantic and aggravated, to the point where the dog wanted to be held in Janelle’s arms. She hinted to Mike that it was possible Suzanne and Stacy had already left and were heading to the water park. As they made their way back outside, as if right on cue straight out of a horror film, the landline phone began ringing. Janelle quickly answered with optimism, hoping the caller had knowledge of the whereabouts of her friends.
What she heard instead was one of the most disgusting things she had ever heard. On the other end of the phone, a male voice was throwing out lecherous sexual innuendos. Feeling sick to her stomach, she hung up the phone and considered the call to be a prank. As she disconnected the conversation, the same male called back immediately continuing where he left off after the initial hangup. Janelle cut him off again and both her and Mike hurriedly made their way out and left the area.
At the other end of the spectrum, Stacy’s mother, Janis, and her oldest daughter, Lisa were under the impression Stacy was at Janelle’s residence. Unbeknownst to them, a relative relayed the information that Suzanne and Stacy left for Sherrill’s. This frustrated Janis but she ultimately lets the irresponsibility slide.
Shortly thereafter, Janis and Lisa headed into town to pick up Lisa’s wedding dress at the bridal store. Almost a full day had gone by and Janis still hadn’t heard from her daughter, Stacy. Due to Sherrill and Suzanne moving to another house, Janis wasn’t aware of their new address and phone number. After a little searching, she was able to track down their new residence in the phone book and decided to pay a visit.
From Janis’ perspective, she immediately felt unnerved by the situation at hand. Though nearly twelve hours have gone by since Janelle and Mike were at the home, Janis encountered the same unsavory scene. With instincts of a mother, she quickly prompted the landline that was last used by Janelle many hours earlier and notified the local police.
Unfortunately, Janis unintentionally deleted the messages that were on the answering machine previously, including the unidentified male voice leaving lewd and absurd messages of whom Janelle spoke to. As a result, key evidence in the investigation that could have potentially been a major break was heartbreakingly lost.
Nevertheless, the police filed the report as a Missing Person’s case, but since they received the call at such late hours, they suggested for Janis to swing by the police station the following morning. The next words the officer told her were, “Could you try to obtain the dental records of your daughter, Stacy?”
Those words pierced Janis because in her mind that implied a scenario where a deceased body was involved. Neglecting sleep, Janis started her own work into the investigation. She began developing and printing out pictures she took the day of graduation, creating a missing person(s) poster to hang up throughout the town. It wasn’t long after when the community began getting involved as well, eventually having over 40,000 flyers handed out across the entire state of Missouri.
Days had gone by with no viable leads or answers on the whereabouts of Sherrill, Suzanne, and Stacy until Springfield police received an interesting tip. A young waitress working at George’s Breakfast — a favorite restaurant of Sherrill and Suzanne’s — claimed to see the three missing women the night of their disappearance between the hours of 1 a.m. to 3 a.m.
The police delved into this information and were able to find the other customers eating at these hours to help corroborate the claims. Sadly, the waitress’s statement couldn’t be corroborated and was officially considered unreliable. However, things were about to take an interesting turn for police and the town of Springfield, Missouri.
With little to no answers to work on, the police started digging into the backgrounds of the three women. They were able to shake loose interesting tidbits that led them to Bartt Streeter, the son of Sherrill Levitt and older brother of nine years to Suzanne. Looking into his past they were able to discover problems between this family of three.
At one point in the early 1980’s, Bartt was kicked out of the home due to his overindulgence of alcohol on a regular basis. Sherrill did not approve of his habits and told him, “If you want to live under my roof, then you have to abide by my rules.” Bartt ignored her instructions and grabbed his belongings and moved away for ten years.
Unknowingly to both Sherrill and Suzanne, he reappeared back in Springfield in the fall of 1991 because of a rough breakup and falling out with his girlfriend at the time. Hoping to mend things between the family, they all reacquainted. Bartt and Suzanne agreed on sharing an apartment together, reconnecting the broken relationship from ten years prior.
It wasn’t long until things went sideways. Bartt was finding it difficult to adjust to his new single life, still feeling the heartache of the breakup. This resurrected his demons, causing his addiction to alcohol to take an even more fearsome toll than before. During an argument between Bartt and Suzanne, the fight led to physical altercations. That was the final straw for Suzie and she moved back home with their mother, Sherrill.
Bartt was considered one of the first suspects in the case but he was quickly ruled out as having any involvement in the disappearance of Sherrill, Suzanne, and Stacy.
As the police kept investigating the backgrounds of the three women, they found another potential lead in Suzanne’s ex-boyfriend, Dustin Reckler and his friend, Michael Clay. While the two were in a relationship, the two men were charged with vandalizing a mausoleum and also stealing gold teeth from the corpses of some, of which they profited by selling at nearby pawn shops. Once Suzanne found out about the criminal charges, she broke off the relationship.
With anger and overall bitterness from Dustin and Michael, there were multiple reports about hearing Michael say, “I wish all three of the women were dead,” and despite their alibis for the night of Sherrill, Suzanne, and Stacy’s disappearance, their whereabouts the night they vanished has never been confirmed. However, due to zero evidence pointing in their direction, they have never been apprehended or charged with the disappearances. They are still considered suspects to this day.
As more tips started creeping in the more stranger things became. In the very early
hours of the disappearance of Sherrill, Suzanne, and Stacy, at approximately at 6:30 a.m. a woman was sitting out on her front porch when she noticed a peculiar van. She explained to investigators the vehicle was a dodge panel van that had a silver to a greenish hue. The model was seemingly from the mid-1960’s to early 1970’s.
She also said the van was out of place — not a vehicle owned by any of the neighbors on the block. Furthermore, she noticed a young woman in the driver’s seat that appeared very distressed. She claimed to hear an unidentified male voice speaking to the driver saying, “Back out slowly and don’t do anything stupid.”
Unfortunately, his tip wasn’t phoned in right away. The witness explained that she hadn’t any apparent knowledge that there were three missing women since this case was still fluctuating in its early morning hours and hadn’t broadcasted on the local news. When the story finally broke that’s when the witness alerted the authorities, saying the female driver was definitely Suzanne Streeter.
The police considered her testimony to be very credible and decided to buy the same modeled van, painting it the color the witness believed it to be, and parked it out front near the police station with a phone number to contact the police for any tips and information.
With this strategic move from police, traction in the case started picking back up. The paperboy doing his deliveries at night described seeing a similar type of van but the color of it was brown. Nonetheless, he couldn’t assure authorities of the genuine color due to it being dark outside. Over time, the color of the van changed dramatically and it soon whittled down to sheer confusion with no more promising breaks regarding the vehicle.
Janis remained steadfast in her pursuit of finding her daughter, as well as Sherrill and Suzanne, continuing to make inquiries with news stations getting the story aired throughout the states. Because of her relentless persistence, another major and promising break in the case occurred. A tipster from the state of Florida called in after seeing the case on the national news, giving the name Robert Craig Cox to authorities, adding him to the list of suspects.
As it turned out, the caller was the brother of Sharon Zellers, a 19-year-old teenager allegedly murdered by Robert Craig Cox in 1978, as she was on her way home from a late night of work at Disney World.
At the time, Robert was in the vicinity celebrating his recent graduation from basic training to become an Army Ranger. He was accompanied by his parents who were at the hotel nearby.
It was quite late that night when Robert headed out on his own while his parents were wanting to get some rest. Later that evening, Robert barged into the room covered in blood coming from his tongue that was partially bitten off. His parents were shocked and immediately rushed him to the emergency room. Robert told the nursing staff he bit off his own tongue, yet the medical examiner concluded its improbability due to the direction of how the tongue was removed.
A few hours faded by and police located the body of Sharon Zellers, who was reported of not arriving back home after work. Her deceased body was only a mere hundred feet from the hotel Robert and his family were staying in. With Robert Craig Cox’s wild story about his tongue, the police interviewed him but were unable to charge him with any crimes; the main reason being a lack of advancement of DNA research in the late 1970’s.
After this incident, Robert traveled with the Army to California where in 1985 he was charged and convicted on two separate occasions of abduction and assault of more women. He was sent back to Florida and was indicted on murder charges of Sharon Zeller. Robert was eventually taken to trial in which he was found guilty, sentenced to life without parole, and placed on the death penalty. The ruling was later overturned again because of the lack of DNA evidence.
Afterward, Robert Craig Cox was released and proceeded to move in 1992 to where his parents were living in Springfield, Missouri, months prior to the disappearances. The Zeller family, still mourning the loss of their daughter and release of Robert, had tabs kept on any news relating to him. That is how the butterfly effect of Janis’ dedication helped bring more awareness to The Springfield Three.
While living in Springfield, Robert had several jobs. For a while, he was employed as an underground utility worker on the south-central side of town (an occupation many people believe could help him enter his into unsuspecting homes). He was also a mechanic at a used car lot where intriguingly enough, Stacy McCall’s father was working at coinciding times.
The coincidences were certainly strange, with people believing that Stacy could have at one point visited the car lot to speak to her father, and in the process be spotted by Robert, thus creating an attraction to her that would lead to her abduction.
All theories aside, this was all conjecture and speculation with the locals. Nonetheless, Robert was interviewed and questioned by the police, but his girlfriend at the time confirmed he was with her the entire night and they had plans to attend Sunday morning church services.
Three years later in 1995, Robert was arrested in Decatur, Texas for holding an armed weapon on a twelve-year-old girl. Since then, he has been serving a life sentence for aggravated robbery. In a surprising turn of events, Robert’s ex-girlfriend from 1992, spoke to Springfield police and recanted her initial statement about his air-tight alibi the night of Sherrill, Suzanne, and Stacy’s disappearance, claiming Robert threatened her and told her the what to say if questioned.
Throughout the years of Robert’s final arrest, the police consider him to be the prime suspect in the case. In an interview with Springfield police Robert once said, “I can tell you that I know the three women are dead, and the person who committed the crime had experience, and they were buried close to Springfield.” The police took the statement very seriously and still do, but also have reservations about the validity due to Robert toying with the authorities with numerous lies and his constant attention seeking.
There are reports that say Robert will tell the truth about Sherrill, Suzanne, and Stacy once his mother passes away because he doesn’t want to cause her grief and severe disappointment. It’s unsure if that statement can be confirmed or denied.
As for unsolved cases such as these, you’ll encounter rumors from all over the mill. One such rumor came from an individual who was deemed an “expert” in the case suggesting the bodies of Sherrill, Suzanne, and Stacy were buried under the south-side parking garage of Cox Hospital, which was being built within the timeline of events.
In 2010, a reporter used her own money to hire a mechanical engineer with a respectable resume. He specialized in using radar to scan under penetrating the ground. While scanning the garage the engineer noticed three anomalies. He couldn’t definitively say if they were bodies or not; only that they bared resemblance to what he’s found in graveyards.
The police were and still are skeptical and not entirely convinced enough to have samples taken from the concrete to help further the investigation to this specific area, and would rather not cause destruction to the property of a very busy hospital. Even more perplexing is the fact that the engineer himself offered to pay for the cost of it all with his own money. Since the engineer made this clear to police, petitions from local residents have been made in order to have this location at Cox Hospital analyzed and hopefully bring light to overdue answers. However, it was later discovered that this “expert” was actually an online sleuth who proclaimed to be a psychic, which is primarily the key component as to why law enforcement doesn’t consider this information to be credible.
It’s now 2018 and surviving family members are still striving to find answers. Unsettling tips aren’t slowing down and every lead is being investigated, yet the rabbit hole only grows deeper and the biggest break that could lead to answers in this case, at Cox Hospital, remains a mystery.
The title of my post mentions the word “Insight.” I’d like to further elaborate. Although it may not provide answers, I think it could help the perception overall.
I’m a Missouri native and have been my entire life. In fact, the town I reside in is roughly a thirty-five-minute drive away to Springfield, Missouri. The population in my town is approximately 11,000 people. If you drive from here directly to Springfield you’ll pass by several towns that are smaller than where I’m located.
One thing to keep steadily in mind is the culture. Every town preceding Springfield is primarily country oriented; that’s the majority of crowds. On the weekends there aren’t many forms of entertainment unless it involves cruising the old graveled back roads and drinking beer.
You won’t get much else, especially if you’re a teenager who shies away from that particular lifestyle. If you’re a musician, gamer, movie buff, artist, or what-have-you, it’s hard to find many locals that share the same interests. Springfield, Missouri is entirely different in a great way.
For the majority of people, if you live foregoing towns, Springfield, Missouri is the destination people typically head for when it revolves around a “night out.” However, it’s not strictly for adults. Parents will often take their children to Springfield when the start of a new year of school is upon them. The reason being is their mall located on Battlefield Rd.
Speaking of the mall — Springfield, Missouri’s prime attraction — if you travel a mile or two in any direction from Battlefield Mall you will come to many popular attractions that stay heavily busy all hours of the day.
For example, directly in front of the main entrance to the mall within a two-mile radius, you’ll see Hobby Lobby, McDonald’s, Target, Best Buy, GameStop, Applebee’s, Cheddars, Chuck E Cheese, and another strip mall. To the left side, you’ll see more restaurants, one of which includes Steak n Shake and Red Lobster, but also a huge church and theater, plus a strip club and other strange oddities. To the right, you’ll see Buffalo Wild Wings, Toys R Us, an incredibly busy gym, and other shopping centers.
The town I reside in and other surrounding areas have none of those attractions. If I decide to go out to dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, it’ll be a thirty to forty-minute drive just to have that dinner. Thus, Springfield is generally the go-to place for a night out on any occasion.
To add on to the statement about the culture, it’s important to understand the way we speak and our terminology. To clarify, when someone wants to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant (especially in my town), we use the word “fancy” to describe Applebee’s. Of course, it isn’t that overall, but to us it is. Otherwise, you’ll be eating at fast-food or a pizza joint instead (not an exaggeration).
I’d like to dive more into the cultural aspect of things. If we’re getting down to the brass tacks of things, Springfield, Missouri is more or less a college town, including Drury and Missouri State. With college, you’ll have a wide range of people with different tastes and ambitions in life, which in turn causes the majority of people living in the surrounding areas to spend a lot of time in Springfield to better suit their needs.
65% of the people who graduate high school in the surrounding areas of Springfield start their new journey by moving to that town, whether it’s for college or more opportunities in the job department (and, believe it or not, relationships). For the other 35% of people, they will remain local and either work at a factory, fast food, gas station, or a retail job that has decent opportunities down the road if dedicated enough.
Additionally, the culture in Springfield ranges in great ways. To put it more clearly, you can be who you want without being “judged” as you possibly would in the other towns. That attracts a lot of teenagers and young adults who are still trying to find themselves in life. The town of Springfield knows and embraces that.
As an anecdote, in the mid-1990’s “Art Walk” became the new “thing.” It didn’t pick up a lot of attraction at the time until the early 2000’s, and since then it’s one of the most popular events that takes place in the town.
It mainly consists of the downtown square as people call it. On the first Friday of every month, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (although it lasts much later) the “square” opens up its 28 shops that feature local and original work of all sorts, ranging from paintings, jewelry, and there are numerous restaurants and pubs open.
In the middle of the “square”, you’ll see a beautiful water fountain and also a wide range of people sharing their passions for anyone who is willing to stop and enjoy. Some of those passions include miming, juggling, music, dancing (especially with hula hoops), comedy, and other personalities.
One of the more popular places people visit during Art Walk is the coffee shops. There are two that stand out, and MudHouse is arguably the most popular. You’ll find just about everyone under the sun. People will hang out here mainly to sit down for a while with their friends. The store also has a huge library of board games you can play while you relax.
Overall, Springfield, Missouri is a town that is modern and stays up to date on the trends throughout the entire world. Of course, the town has its problem as any other place in the world, but it’s a fantastic place for those who are wanting to find themselves and who they want to be in the future.
I know this information may not be helpful in solving the crime of The Springfield Three, but I figured I’d try to help others understand the people and environment that surrounds the area. Hopefully, with this knowledge of things, there will be people who live around these areas that share a fascination with the unsolved just as me and dive into this and many other cases with enthusiasm and a dedication to seeing them resolved.