June 6, 1992 began as an exciting day for Suzie Streeter and Stacy McCall. They’d both just graduated from high school and were spending the night celebrating. The last graduation party they attended that evening was at the home of Janelle Kirby, a close mutual friend. Stacy and Janelle would both be attending Missouri State University that upcoming fall, while Suzie would be studying cosmetology like her mother, Sherrill Levitt. As they were enjoying the party and wanted to stay longer, the three friends scuttled their original plans to stay at a motel and decided they would spend the night at Janelle’s home instead. However, this didn’t work out, because many of Janelle’s relatives were staying at the Kirby residence, and there wasn’t much room, so Stacy and Suzie decided to go back to the house where Suzie lived with Sherrill. They left at 2 a.m.
Suzie and Stacy had plans to meet up with Janelle to go to a waterpark the following day, but they failed to appear at the Kirby house, so Janelle and her boyfriend, Mike, went over to see what had happened, arriving between 9 and 10 a.m. When they got to Levitt’s house, they saw Sherrill, Suzie, and Stacy’s cars all present in the driveway, and they assumed everyone was there. Then they found that the porch light had been shattered (though the bulb inside was undamaged), so the two of them swept away the glass from the stairs. Since the house was unlocked, Janelle and Mike went inside.
In the house, Janelle and her boyfriend searched for her friends. They saw that Sherrill and Suzie’s beds both appeared to have been slept in. Also, in the bathroom, there were dirty washcloths that Suzie and Stacy had used to remove their makeup. Sherrill’s terrier dog, Cinnamon, was in the house, and Janelle noticed that the animal seemed anxious, barking and wanting to be held. She also saw that Sherrill and Suzie had left their cigarettes and lighters on the table, while they usually kept those items with them all the time. Although Janelle and Mike felt that something was a bit off, they weren’t initially worried, and assumed that the girls must have decided to go to the waterpark ahead of them. The phone rang, and Janelle answered it to hear the voice of an unknown man, who made disturbing sexual remarks. She hung up the phone, and another call followed of the same nature, which Janelle again hung up on. They then left the house to go to the waterpark, hoping that Suzie and Stacy were there waiting for them.
Stacy McCall’s mother, Janis, attempted to get in touch with her daughter by calling the Kirby residence, but was informed that Stacy had stayed with Suzie instead. Janis was unhappy that Stacy had failed to tell her this, and since she didn’t have the phone number to the Levitt house, Janis went on with her day and figured she would meet up with Stacy later. When this didn’t happen, Janis managed to track down the number and called the house, where, of course, there was no answer. So, at about 5:00 p.m. on June 7, Janis drove over to see what the holdup was.
Janis initially tried simply opening the door and calling out into the house, as she was hesitant to walk in, but eventually realized she had no choice and and entered the home. There, Janis saw that Stacy’s clothes had been folded, but her T-shirt and underwear (likely what she’d worn to bed) were missing. The television was on, but just showed a fuzzy screen. And most strangely, Stacy, Suzie, and Sherrill’s purses were all sitting on the floor in a row. Janis checked the answering machine and heard a strange message, which she inadvertently erased. At that point, Janis felt sure something was wrong, and called the police from the phone in the house. The responding officer agreed to file a missing persons report and asked Janis to come to the station the following day. When he asked Janis if she would be able to obtain the victims’ dental records, she realized her daughter might be dead.
Investigation and Suspects
One of the problems that hampered the investigation was the fact that the crime scene had been contaminated. Besides Janelle and Janis, other concerned family and friends had visited the house and looked for clues, which disrupted the scene’s integrity. Most damningly, the two potentially most useful pieces of evidence – the broken porch light and answering machine message – had both been destroyed.
The police received an unusually large number of tips, including one from Sherrill Levitt’s neighbor, who told the police his car was stolen the same night of the disappearance; however, it was found days later and not determined to be connected. Later, a waitress at Sherrill’s favorite restaurant told police she had seen the three women there between 1 and 3 a.m., yet, when investigators interviewed other people who had been there that night, nobody agreed with her claim.
One surprising suspect turned out to be Suzie’s brother, Bartt. He had a substance abuse problem, and when he drank, he could become violent. In fact, he and Suzie had previously shared an apartment, but she moved back in with their mother after they had an intense argument that ended with screaming and items being thrown. Bartt told police he’d spent that night unconscious on his own couch, a story confirmed by his girlfriend and a neighbor. Additionally, he passed a polygraph, after which police officially cleared him as a suspect.
Police then became interested in Suzie’s ex-boyfriend, Dustin Recla. Suzie broke up with him a few months before her disappearance because he’d been arrested for vandalizing a local cemetery. Dustin and his accomplices, including a man named Mike Clay, later attempted to sell gold fillings they’d stolen there. Upon visiting Mike’s house, police saw what appeared to be a small altar, with an image of a pentagram, candles, and an animal skull. When they came back the next day, though, these items were gone.
At the time, Suzie had provided the police with information on the case that helped them charge Dustin and Mike with the vandalism. Police wondered if there could be a connection between this and her disappearance, so they called the two men in for additional questioning. When they were interviewing Mike, he remarked that he hoped the three women were dead, raising suspicion. Later, Mike stated he’d said that because he disliked the person interviewing him, and both he and Dustin denied having anything to do with the women going missing.
Police then got another tip. A woman living in a neighborhood about a mile away from Suzie and Sherrill told investigators that at 6:30 a.m. on June 7, she saw a van being driven by Suzie Streeter, who appeared to have been crying heavily, and then heard a man’s voice telling her not to do anything stupid. The woman said she only recognized Suzie as the driver after seeing her photo on a missing persons poster. The witness gave police a detailed description of the van, and the police bought an identical one, which they publicly displayed and asked for any tips. Despite receiving many calls and extensive searches, this did not turn up new evidence.
The police got a lead from an unlikely place – Florida. They were pointed toward a man named Robert Cox, who was convicted in 1988 of abducting and murdering a woman named Sharon Zellers ten years earlier. He was placed on death row, but the ruling was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court and Robert served only 18 months in prison before being released to California, where he was already serving a sentence for abducting and assaulting two different women. Robert was paroled in 1992 and returned to his hometown… Springfield, Missouri. Sharon’s family made the connection between Robert’s presence in Springfield at the time of the disappearances and informed police there. Robert was employed as a utilities worker when the women went missing, a job which would could have allowed him to easily access a stranger’s home. Robert had also previously been on staff at the used car lot where Stacy McCall’s father worked. Stacy often visited her father, so it is possible that Robert saw her at some point and planned to abduct her. Robert had an alibi for the time when the women went missing, which was initially corroborated by his girlfriend, although she later retracted that statement.
Springfield police questioned Robert Cox three times in his prison cell in Texas, where he serves a life sentence for armed robbery. In one interview with a TV station, Robert said he knew the women were dead, and the perpetrator “had experience” and “knew what they were doing.” Police admitted they weren’t sure if he had any actual involvement or was merely trying to toy with them.
A journalist named Kathee Baird moved to Springfield and began working the case. Like the police, she asked for tips, and received many. Kathee said she received multiple replies from people claiming that the bodies of the women had been buried underneath a parking structure at Cox South Hospital (no relation to Robert). She hired a mechanical engineer, who used ground-penetrating radar and found three “anomalies” that he believed were “consistent with a gravesite location.” Police were skeptical of this assessment, though, and did not feel it justified the enormous cost of digging up the structure. They have not done so.
Aftermath and Remaining Questions
Suzie Streeter and Sherrill Levitt were declared legally dead in 1997; Stacy has not been. A memorial for the women was built in Springfield the same year.
There are varied clues in this case, many of which don’t seem to connect to one another. It’s extremely unfortunate that best pieces of evidence – those at the crime scene, the broken porch lamp and answering machine message – were ruined. As a result, there’s not much to go on beyond witness reports and speculation.
Police were especially disappointed by being unable to hear the message. In an interview, Janis admitted she couldn’t remember what was said, just that it was a man’s voice and the message was “disturbing.” Could it have been another call like the ones Janelle answered? And as for those, were they just pranks, or something more?
And what did the lamp break mean? Did one of the women do it, perhaps as some kind of signal? It also seems to be the only sign of struggle, seeing as the only thing that appeared out of the ordinary about the house was the purses lined up on the floor. Did the women not bother to fight back because they simply felt it was pointless, or was the abductor someone they felt they could trust?
This case remains a popular subject online, and there are numerous proposed answers to the questions above – and more.
Bartt and his daughter Dee run a blog where they collect and publish any continuing information on the case. It was last updated in November 2018.