Inside The Decades-Long Cold Case Of The Springfield Three

For a high school senior, June should be a time of celebration. Graduation marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another, the first step into adulthood. The occasion is celebratory, with many new graduates attending post-ceremony parties and receptions with family and friends, who shower them with love and gifts. 

The 1992 graduation from Kickapoo High School on June 6 should have ushered in a summer full of goodbyes and plans for college or work. But the graduating class that year was mired in fear and despair. Two of their own had been reported missing the day after their ceremony, along with one of the young women's mothers. For more than 30 years now, the case of "The Springfield Three" has been a source of frustration for investigators and has left many unanswered questions for the loved ones left behind (per The Charley Project).

A tainted crime scene, an eerie revelation by a convicted murderer, and several strange excavations have still not yielded the results that the missing women's families and law enforcement have been hoping for. As we explore the details of this cold case, it's hard to believe that three women could seemingly vanish into thin air, never to be seen again.

The two graduates were last seen after 2 A.M.

Stacy McCall and Suzanne Streeter were great high school friends, graduating with the rest of the Kickapoo High School graduating class on June 6, 1992. According to The Charley Project, the two women had planned to spend the night in a hotel room in nearby Branson, Missouri, after attending several graduation parties. Then, they spent the next day at Branson's White Water amusement park.

In a last-minute change of plans, the women decided that they would stay at the home of a friend in Battlefield, Missouri. McCall phoned her mother and told her of their change of plans, but the women didn't stay in Battlefield long. After the police arrived to investigate a noise complaint at the home they were staying at, McCall and Streeter decided to leave and head to Streeter's home for the rest of the night. Springfield police say that the last time the two were seen was at approximately 2:15 a.m. when they left the Battlefield residence for Streeter's home on East Delmar Street in Springfield. 

Streeter lived with her mother, 47-year-old Sherrill Elizabeth Levitt, a cosmetologist (per KY3 News). Investigators know that Streeter and McCall drove to Streeter's home in their respective vehicles and are assumed to have arrived there safely. But sometime after they arrived at the home, all three women mysteriously left the residence without a trace. 

There was no sign of a struggle in the home

Police believe that all three women left Suzanne Streeter's home for the final time at some point before 8:00 a.m. on June 7, 1992 (via the  Springfield News-Leader). Streeter's friend attempted to reach her by phone that morning, to no avail. She was trying to reach Streeter so that she could find out when they all planned to meet up to drive to the water park together. No one answered the phone. The Springfield News-Leader reports that the concerned friend and her boyfriend paid a visit to Streeter's house at 12:30 p.m. that day to investigate. They discovered that the front door was slightly ajar and that the globe from the porch light had been shattered on the ground nearby. Streeter's dog, a Yorkshire Terrier, appeared to be agitated. Apart from these items, there was nothing else amiss and no signs of a struggle (via The Charley Project). 

Not aware that her daughter had left her friend's house in Battlefield, Stacy McCall's mother, Janis, became alerted that her daughter had been last seen leaving that home en route to Streeter's house. Now aware that her daughter was missing, she involved the authorities. On June 8, a warrant to enter the residence was secured. Police noticed no signs of a struggle and later admitted that the nearly two dozen concerned friends and family members of the missing women probably tainted the crime scene.

All three vehicles and their keys were left behind

Investigators took note that the personal belongings of each woman were accounted for in Suzanne Streeter's home. The Charley Project reports that their purses were all lined up on the interior staircase, the television was left on, and there were no signs of robbery. They noted that Sherrill Elizabeth's bed appeared to have been slept in, and they found her reading glasses and an over-turned book lying nearby. The only other clue found was in Streeter's bedroom, where it was discovered that her mini blinds had been pulled apart, giving the impression that someone had quickly forced them open to look outside.

Outside the home, Stacy McCall's Toyota Corolla and Streeter's Ford Escort were parked in the driveway of the residence. Levitt's Corsica had been tucked away neatly in the garage. The keys to all three vehicles were found inside the house. After seeing that McCall's clothing had been neatly folded, the jewelry stashed inside the pockets, police surmised that the woman left her friend's home dressed in only her t-shirt and underwear. "The only thing unusual about this house was that three women were missing from it," stated retired Springfield Police Capt. Tony Glenn (via the Springfield News-Leader). "You had this feeling as you looked around that something was missing, that something had to be missing. But there wasn't. Just them." 

Suspects were interviewed and cleared

What began as an investigation by Springfield police soon grew into a full-scale search by loved ones of the women and concerned community members. Fliers featuring the women's faces were plastered all over the area, and the FBI became officially involved on June 9 (per the Springfield News-Leader). As volunteers combed nearby wooded areas for clues, police began to question the handful of potential suspects they scrounged up. The Charley Project reports that Suzanne Streeter's older brother, Bartt, was interviewed and cleared, as was one of Streeter's former boyfriends. Days after the women were reported missing, police released a composite sketch of a suspected transient male who was reported lurking nearby Streeter's home before their disappearances. During interviews, witnesses revealed that a woman matching Streeter's description was seen driving a green Dodge van on June 7. The witness claimed that the woman behind the wheel looked terrified and said he heard a man's voice within the van instruct her not to "do anything stupid." 

The case of "The Springfield Three" became national news when it was featured on an episode of "America's Most Wanted" a week after their disappearance (per the Springfield News-Leader). While this caused many people to phone in tips to the show's operators and the Springfield police, investigators did not find any conclusive evidence when they followed up on these leads. One lead took them to farmland in the area, while another led them to Bull Shoals Lake. These, among other leads, were considered to be dead ends.

The individual many consider to be the most likely culprit was a man known to Stacy McCall's father. His name is Robert Cox (via Crime Watch Daily).

A convicted kidnapper seems to be the most likely suspect

Robert Cox, an ex-Army Ranger, was nearly sentenced to death in Florida for the murder of Sharon Zellers. In a stroke of luck, his conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court, and he was a free man. He was no stranger to the penal system and had a propensity for violence. He had served time in a California prison for the kidnappings of two women and settled back in Springfield, Missouri, after his release (per the Springfield News-Leader). Though not a native of the city, Cox had attended high school there, and his parents were still in the area. He was still living in Springfield in 1992 when the women went missing. 

An initial suspect in the case, Cox was questioned and released. His girlfriend at the time told investigators that Cox was with her in church early on the morning of June 7, giving him a partial alibi. But when he was arrested several years later for an armed robbery charge in Texas, some disturbing events came to light. That same girlfriend told a grand jury in 1995 that she lied about Cox being with her at the time in question. But without any additional proof, the grand jury disbanded without any charges filed against Cox.

In 1996, Cox agreed to an interview with Springfield News-Leader reporter Robert Keyes. In an interview that lasted nearly six hours, Keyes extracted some disturbing statements from Cox that made investigators prick up their ears.

Still missing 30 years later

During the interview, Robert Cox told Robert Keyes that he knew that the three women from Springfield were dead. The KY3 New reports that when pressed by Robert Keyes as to whether or not his statement was a theory, Cox replied, "I just know that they are dead. That's not my theory. I just know that. There's no doubt about that." He also claimed that they were killed and buried in or near Springfield. Beyond that, he refused to give any other details about the case. This interview was turned over to another grand jury in 1996, but they did not file charges against him. Thought to be the most likely killer by many, Cox has refused to say much more about the missing women. Crime Watch Daily tells us that Cox claimed to have revealed all that he knew after the death of his mother, who was 82 when the story on him was aired in 2017. Is he the killer, or just making statements for attention?

Reporter Kathee Baird reported to police in 2007 that she received a tip that the three women were buried beneath a local hospital parking lot (per Front Page Detectives). She claimed that police did not take her tip seriously, even after she hired someone to bring in ground-penetrating radar. This device allegedly picked up three shapes beneath the surface of the concrete that could have been bodies. But after weighing the evidence presented to them, police refused to excavate, stating that anyone buried in that location would have been disturbed and discovered when the hospital garage was built. Adding to police skepticism of Baird's stories is their accusation that many of her tips come from psychics. 

Will Cox eventually confess? Or will some clues lead to the arrest of other persons? The case continues to get colder after 30 years.