WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
Disclaimer: This story is kind of a June 7 story, because 2 of the missing women were last seen on June 7 and the case began then, but because 1 of the missing women was last heard from on June 6, I'm going to let this live as a June 6 story on a technicality.
The Springfield Three is in reference to a still unsolved missing persons case when 3 women, 18 and 19 year old friends Suzie Streeter and Stacy McCall, and Streeter's mother, Sherrill Levitt, went missing from Levitt's home in Springfield, Missouri.
All of their belongings were left behind, including their purses and cars, and besides a broken porch light, there was no sign of forced entry or a struggle. A message on the answering machine could have been a clue, but it was accidentally deleted.
A known kidnapper and robber claimed that he knew the women had been murdered in 1997, but has never provided further details and their bodies have never been found.
THE VICTIMS AND THE DISAPPEARANCE (1)
Sherrill Levitt was 47 at the time of her disappearance. She was a cosmetologist at a local salon, and a single mother who was very close to her daughter, Suzie Streeter. Suzie was 19, and her best friend, Stacy, was 18.
Suzie and Stacy had just graduated from Kickapoo High School on June 6, 1992. They went to a series of graduation parties after the ceremony, and were last seen leaving a party at around 2:00 AM on June 7. They had planned to sleep over at their friend Janelle Kirby's house, but decided to stay at Suzie's house when Janelle's was too crowded. It is assumed that they made it to the house, as their cars were outside and their clothing, jewelry and purses were inside the house.
Levitt was last seen on June 6, and last heard from at about 11:15 PM that night when she was talking to her friend on the phone about a home improvement project she was planning. After the girls arrived home past 2:00 AM, nobody knows what happened at that house.
At around 9:00 AM the next morning, Janelle Kirby and her boyfriend arrived at the house. They had planned to spend the day at a water park, planning to leave from Kirby's house in the morning, but the girls didn't show up. When she found the door unlocked, she went inside, but no one was there. She would eventually report to police that the glass lampshade on the porch was shattered but not the light bulb itself, but at the time, likely not realizing anything bad happened, they swept up the broken glass, destroying the evidence.
While inside the house, Janelle found the family's dog, Cinnamon, who appeared agitated, and she also answered what she said was a "strange and disturbing call" from a man making sexual innuendos, and she hung up. The person called right back, and she hung up again.
Hours after Kirby had left, Stacy's mother, Janis, went to the house when she was unable to get a hold of her daughter. When she saw all of their purses on the floor and their clothes from the night before, Janis frantically called the police to report them missing. While checking the phone's answering machine, she heard a "strange message" but accidentally deleted it. When recounting it to police, they thought it may have contained a clue, but couldn't know for sure.
Many other worried friends and family called and visited the home. (I'm not sure why people just keep letting themselves into this family's home and checking their answering machine?) Anyway, the police estimated that 10-20 people had went in and out of the house, corrupting any crime scene they could have hoped to put together. They were able to determine there was minimal to no signs of struggle, and that Levitt's bed had been slept in, so she was probably roused from sleep by whatever, or whoever, happened.
DEVELOPMENTS AND THEORIES
In the 28 years since they went missing, there have been thousands of tips, but none have lead to the discovery of the Springfield Three. On December 31, 1992, a man called the America's Most Wanted hotline with information about the case, but when the operator tried to link the cal to the investigators, the call was disconnected. (It is not clear if it was accidentally disconnected, or the caller disconnected manually when he learned police were joining the call.) The police said that his knowledge of the abductions made him a person of interest and appealed publicly for him to call back, but he never did. (1)
In 1997, an imprisoned Texas kidnapper and robber named Robert Craig Cox told journalists that he knew the women had been murdered, and that their bodies would never be found. Cox was living in Springfield back in 1992, but he had an alibi that he was at church the morning the women disappeared. (But if the abduction could have happened at any point between after 2:00 AM and before 9:00 AM, you probably need a more solid alibi than 1 hour of your time, no?) His girlfriend had corroborated his alibi at the time, but she later recanted and said she was asked to say that by Cox. (1)
Police are uncertain if he was involved, or just seeking some sort of recognition. He claims that he will disclose what happened to the women after his mother dies. (1)
Investigators also received a tip that the women were buried under the south parking garage at Cox Hospital. Using a ground penetrating radar, they did find 3 anomalies, roughly the same size as a grave site. However, the person who provided the tip provided no evidence or logical reasoning as to why they believed the bodies were there. With nothing but flimsy potential "anomalies" and no hard evidence, the police department has determined digging up the area and reconstructing it would be extremely costly, and thus, have decided not to. They believe the tip came from someone claiming to be a psychic, or who claimed to have a dream or vision about the case. (1)
One interesting theory I read on Reddit tried to answer all of the questions this case brings up, most primarily, how on earth did someone get 3 adults out of their home without any struggle? How were they so easily controlled by one perpetrator? How come nothing seemed amiss, how could they have been transported away, why did they leave all of their stuff behind? The theory? Their abductor was a cop. (2)
Though the user admits this doesn't really explain they who or the why, it does explain how 1 person could have gotten 3 people out of their home. Cops are authority figures, and they don't look out of place for passerby's or neighbors. This could also explain why there has been little continued investigation, and perhaps why the police refuse to dig up the parking garage. They know the crime was was committed by one of their own. (2)
It is a spin-off of a more popular theory, that someone went up to the house asking for directions, saying their car broke down, or even someone posing as a utility worker claiming their house had a gas leak of some sort. But if someone was asking for directions or help with a broken down car late at night, would anyone even wake up to the knock at the door? And if so, why would all 3 people go outside? And they certainly wouldn't all willingly get into a stranger's car, but how did he force 3 adults inside of it? (2)
If there was a fake gas leak or other safety issue, getting all 3 people outside is more plausible, but again, getting into someone's car willingly in the wee hours of the morning just doesn't seem likely. The only type of car that it at least makes sense that they'd willingly get inside of is that of a trustworthy, reliable authority figure, like a cop. Though I still don't know what ruse a cop would use to get 3 law-abiding citizens out of their home and into his car in the night.
There is also another component to the story, that apparently, Suzie and her ex-boyfriend, and some other friends, had robbed a grave. They had been caught vandalizing a mausoleum, stealing a skull and attempting to sell the skull's golden fillings to a local pawn shop. Suzie had made a statement about it to police, but there is no confirmation if there was a trial of if she would be a witness. Perhaps they felt that Suzie's witnessing their crime could have hurt their case and they planned to get rid of the witnesses. It seems kind of unlikely, but everything sounds like a good idea when you're drunk or high, coupled with feeling scared that you're going to jail. If 3 or more people were involved, it makes more sense how they could have gotten everybody out of the house without signs of a struggle. (2)
Some also believe that Sherrill was the target, and the abductor's plan had to adapt when the girls decided to sleep over. In this theory, Sherrill was dead before the girls even got home, and he surprised them and strangled them. In this theory, there would have to be a motive for Sherrill's murder, and he would have had to have been there at the exact time the girls were coming home, lest he planned to hang out with a dead body for some time. And because their girls had taken their clothes, jewelry and makeup off, they certainly weren't surprised or attacked as soon as they came in. But I don't know, personally if I arrived home at 2:00 AM and there was a strange car parked in my driveway, I'm not sure I'd go inside. But I don't know if having guests over was common for Sherrill. (3)
And certainly, Cox could have been involved, but most theories don't point to him, though I think there is some value in believing him. I guess we will just have to wait until his mom dies to maybe find out.
The thing about this case is that every single theory sounds so crazy that they all sound right. It just doesn't make sense how 3 people were controlled enough to get them out of the house. Let's say Sherrill is dead when they get home, and the killer sneaks up on the girls, realizing he is going to have to kill them, too. He would have had to strangle them or kill them in a way that didn't leave blood. You can't really strangle 2 people at once. Did he have an accomplice to kill Sherrill, and got lucky when they also needed to kill 2 other people? Or did one of the girls freeze in terror when he started strangling her friend? It seems like the easiest way to control 3 people to get them in your car is for them to be dead before getting into the car, but how did 1 man kill 3 people? And how did he drag 3 corpses to the car without arousing any suspicion?
If it was a ruse of some sort by a sex criminal passerby or a "maintenance man" or something, I can understand how one person opened the door and went outside, I'm not quite seeing how all 3 would go outside but maybe, but why would all 3 of them get into his car? Perhaps police would have seen signs of struggle outdoors if 20 people hadn't gone to the house, but you would think if they were being forced into a car they would have screamed and someone would have heard it?
If it was a cop, under what circumstances would you, your daughter and her friend all willingly get into a cop's car in the middle of the night? Did he fake some danger coming their way, or arrest them for something? Getting willingly into a cop car seems most plausible, but under what circumstances would anyone do that?
And if 3 high-school aged grave robbing friends decided to take out the witness to their crime, would they really need to do it when she is with her friend and mom? They hadn't even planned to stay over there. Is a grave robbing charge, one that the witness had already made a statement about, worth killing over? And in the 28 years since the murder occurred, no one has spoken out? I do think that the friends going over there first thing and sweeping up the glass and listening to the voicemails supports this theory, that they were involved in some way and went to clean up, innocently.
Nothing makes sense. The girls weren't supposed to be home, and it both seems like he knew they would be and that he was surprised by their arrival. It would be easier to get people into your car if they were dead or unconscious, but overpowering 3 women by yourself in the house seems implausible. Showing up as an authority figure is a good ruse to get the door opened, but to get 3 people into your car is far-fetched. High school kids murdering 3 people and never being caught because of a grave robbing charge seems far-fetched. Being killed inside seems impossible, being brought to the car with no struggle seems impossible. The entire case seems impossible and I feel like, without a confession, nobody will ever know what really happened.
This one is a real stumper, and the "out-there" theories seem just as plausible as any because any theory as to how these women were taken from their home and likely murdered has to be out there. There is no reasonable explanation.
It has been 28 years since their abduction and likely murder, and so far, the person, or people, responsible for their disappearance is still out and about, living with the knowledge of what happened to the Springfield Three. Perhaps one day, someone will crack and confess, but it doesn't seem likely.
This one might just go down as a sad, tragic mystery that just may never be solved.