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27 Years Later: The Haunting Disappearance of the Springfield Three Remains a Mystery

What really happened on that fateful June night in 1992?

Graduating high school is an exciting time for most American teens and their families. But for two Springfield, Missouri teenagers and the mother of one of the teens, high school graduation marked a baffling and tragic end. High school friends Suzanne "Suzie" Streeter, Stacy McCall, and Streeter's mother, Sherrill Levitt, disappeared shortly after Suzie and Stacy’s graduation day. Twenty-seven years later, their whereabouts remain a mystery. 

The year was 1992, and Suzie Streeter, 19, and her lifelong friend Stacy McCall, 18, had just graduated from Kickapoo High School on June 6. They were celebrating with their classmates, bouncing from graduation party to graduation party, and were last seen around 2:15 A.M. on June 7 as they left their final party of the night. At this point, the two women made their way to the Streeter/Levitt home to spend the night.

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Sherrill Levitt was 47 years old at the time of her disappearance. She worked as a cosmetologist. By all accounts, the night of June 6/7 was relatively quiet for her. She had been on the phone with a friend, discussing painting an armoire, at around 11:15 P.M.

Considering Suzie and Stacy’s belongings were later found at the Levitt home—purses, clothes, cigarettes, makeup, etc.—it is assumed that the pair did, indeed, make it to their intended destination. Their cars were also in the driveway. The next morning, however, when friends arrived at the Levitt home, neither Suzie, Stacy, nor Sherrill were anywhere to be found.

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  • Stacy and Suzie at graduation.

A group of the graduates planned to go to a Branson, Missouri waterpark together on June 7. Janelle Kirby, a friend of Suzie and Stacy’s, expected the pair to arrive at her home on the morning of June 7 to set out together for the waterpark. But the morning rolled by and Suzie and Stacy still hadn't showed up. 

So Janelle and her boyfriend decided to go over to the house to see if the girls had left for the waterpark without them. As they approached the front steps, they noticed the porch light globe was broken, though the bulb was still on. Shattered glass glinted in the sunlight. Janelle's boyfriend kindly grabbed a broom and swept up and disposed of the glass. He thought he was being helpful; in actuality he unknowingly contaminated a crime scene.

Related: 8 of the Most Chilling, Unsolved Crimes 

The front door was unlocked. Upon entering, Janelle and her boyfriend noticed everything was intact, with no signs of struggle. Beds had seemingly been slept in, packs of cigarettes were still present, and the cars were all parked in the driveway. Even Suzie's Yorkie Cinnamon was at home, though the dog appeared agitated. Suzie, Stacy, and Sherrill were nowhere to be found.

Just before Janelle and her boyfriend were about to leave, the home phone rang. Janelle answered. The caller didn’t identify himself, but began making lewd sexual comments, so Janelle hung up, assuming it was a prank call. She and her boyfriend left the home.

The day wore on with no signs of the missing women. Word soon spread to Janis McCall, Stacy’s mom. After phoning the Levitt home but receiving no answer, Janis decided to call on her daughter in person, since she hadn’t heard from her since the night before. She arrived as the sun began to set on June 7. She found that the door to the house was unlocked, and she entered. Upon stepping inside, she found the same eerily still scene first witnessed by Janelle and her boyfriend earlier that day: the TV in the bedroom was turned on, tuned to static; personal items were left behind. Janis noticed that her daughter’s bathing suit, car keys, makeup kit, plus a change of clothes were arranged neatly in a pile. There was evidence in the bathroom to suggest the girls had taken off their makeup from the night before. Strangely, the purses of all three women were lined up along a step leading to Suzie’s room. Reports indicate that there was a voicemail left on the machine, but it was accidentally deleted: presumably while someone tried to listen.

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  • Photo Credit: Courtesy of Missouri Police Department

More than 16 hours after the women were last seen, the police were called. As concern over the missing women spread, friends and family members visited the Levitt house before the police had a chance to fully investigate, further contaminating the crime scene.

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The first suspect was Sherrill’s son Bartt Streeter, who had previously fought with his mother and sister about his drinking problem. After providing authorities with an alibi, however, Bartt was ruled out as a suspect. Authorities also suspected Suzie’s ex-boyfriend Dustin Recla. Dustin and his friend Michael Clay were already on the authorities’ radar, having been charged with vandalizing a mausoleum at a local cemetery and removing gold teeth from a corpse. Dustin and Michael cooperated with the police, however, and were ruled out as suspects.

Authorities continued to search for clues, yet turned up precious little. Days became weeks, became months, and the case went cold. 

Then, in 1996, a promising lead came to light in the form of a Texas inmate named Robert Craig Cox. Cox was a trained army ranger who in 1988 had been arrested and convicted in Florida for the 1978 murder of Sharon Zellers. That decision was reversed by the Florida Supreme Court in 1989 due to insufficient evidence. Yet other crimes remained on Cox's rap sheet. In 1986, he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon in California. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for the crime. Florida authorities then charged Cox with the murder of Zellers. After the 1989 reversal by the Florida Supreme Court, Cox was sent back to California to finish serving out his prison term. The Orlando Sentinel reports that he was paroled in late 1990, and soon returned to his boyhood home in Springfield, Missouri.

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Cox worked as a utilities worker at the time of the disappearance of the Springfield Three. Cox also reportedly worked as a mechanic at a used car lot where Stacy's father was employed as a salesman. He was interviewed by police in 1992, but claimed he was with his girlfriend on the morning of June 7. At the time, Cox’s girlfriend had corroborated his alibi.

springfield three Robert Craig Cox
  • Robert Craig Cox.

  • Photo Credit: The Crime Scene

By the late-1990s, Cox was behind bars yet again, serving out a 30-year sentence for armed robbery in Texas. It was then, in 1996, that Cox told a KY3 News reporter he knew about the disappearances and deaths of the Springfield Three. He claimed he knew the women were dead and that their bodies would never be found. 

Furthermore, Cox's girlfriend had later come forward to recant her initial corroboration of Cox's alibi. She claimed that Cox told her to lie if cops ever asked where they were that fateful June weekend. Cox, however, was a notorious attention-seeker; authorities were uncertain as to whether Cox was just lying about his involvement to keep himself in the limelight. While Cox was a promising suspect, authorities had no concrete evidence with which to pursue. Eventually, the case went cold yet again. 

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Investigating the case of the Springfield Three has led to nothing but dead ends and frustration. Theories about what happened to the women that night run the gamut from kidnapping and human trafficking to calculated murder. At one point, investigators received a tip that the women were buried in the foundation of the south parking garage at a local hospital—though they did not believe this “tip” to be credible enough to justify tearing up the concrete. 

In early 2019, reports surfaced that Bartt Streeter was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and attempted false imprisonment of a 15-year-old girl after a February 28 incident at a nail salon in Smyrna, Tennessee. The Streeter family later released a statement saying the charges were "exaggerated."

What really happened on that fateful night back in 1992? Was it an abduction, planned in advance? Was it perpetrated by just one person? Did the women leave willingly, as there were no obvious signs of a struggle? All of these questions continue to gnaw at authorities, and heavy on surviving family members. Despite approximately 5,000 tips over the years, the case remains unsolved.

In 1997, the police declared the three women legally dead. Still, the case has not yet been closed, so any information that you do have is still welcome by the police.

Published on 18 Apr 2017

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