SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The case of the three missing women not only captured the attention of community members, it consumed many of the men and women working the case.
Even 25 years later, some of them still think about the women daily.
We sat down with men who were on the ground from the beginning and one officer who picked up the torch ten years into the investigation.
“I wish we had solved that case back then, but I pray daily that this case is solved before I leave this world. I won’t have to get up to glory to see the girls to see what happened,” Retired Sgt. David Asher with the Springfield Police Department said.
Asher helped lead the investigation into the disappearance of Sherrill Levitt, her daughter, Suzie Streeter and Streeter’s friend, Stacy Mccall.
Just days into their disappearance, Asher’s team was tasked with finding answers many detectives are still searching for today.
“My team and I worked days and nights and many many hours. We were overwhelmed, we were confronted with issues we had never been confronted with before,” Asher said.
Some of those challenges are well known.
Among them, one of the most important pieces of any case, the condition of the crime scene.
In the hours leading up to police being contacted, family members and friends were inside the home trying to make sense of the situation.
“I’m not blaming anybody. A family is concerned is going to do everything they can do,” Asher said.
“Anytime you walk into a crime scene, you take something in. Anytime you leave the crime scene you take something out,” Ron Worsham said.
Worsham was the assistant police chief in 1992.
He says early on the department threw everyone and everything at the case.
In those days DNA evidence wasn’t used, but detectives did use a fumigating technique to pull fingerprints from the home.
“And of course, we had thousands of prints at that point and time…we didn’t have the automatic print system at that time. So really the only way prints did you any good back then is if you had a suspect to compare them too,” Worsham said.
There were also thousands of tips that poured in from the community.
“Every tip that came in, you couldn’t afford not to check it out. Because any tip could have been credible,” Worsham said.
Investigators went to great, and at times, unconventional lengths following some of those leads.
A person was called in who claimed to be able to communicate with the dog that was left behind.
A woman who provided information about a green van seen in the area was hypnotized.
Investigators managed to track a phone call from the show America’s Most Wanted to a store in Louisiana.
“That person actually fit the description of some of the information we had that could of been involved in the abduction. That person was going to call back and never did.”
Going to the public for help may have been a doubled-edged sword though, as many of those interviewed by police were aware of the latest information.
“It just gets a lot out there to where detectives might be hindered in their attempts to solve it or follow up on leads property,” Greg Higdon of the SPD said.
Springfield Police Captain Higdon brought a fresh set of eyes to the case in 2001.
“It’s very intimidating, I mean there were at that time 5,000 plus leads, going in a variety of different directions,” Higdon said.
Higdon re-interviewed family members and friends and combed through evidence.
Before his promotion in 2006, he had filed more than 400 new reports on the case.
“There were some that came in that were good leads, other leads were maybe not a lot of information: Maybe a sighting or, ‘I think this person did it’ or that person, but not much to go on,” Higdon said.
“I think we did everything we probably could, but you never know what you might have missed. That’s always in the back of your mind,” Worsham said.
Worsham says in later years as sheriff of Webster County he still followed leads on the missing women.
And, even in his retirement, as he hears of other missing persons cases, many of the memories come back.
“I think about this case everyday, today. Back in June the 7th, 1992 is when it started,” Asher said.
Each investigator has their own theories, only parts of which they are willing to share.
“I firmly believe one of them was being stalked for sometime before the crime was ever committed,” Worsham said.
“I personally believe we have talked to that person or persons responsible,” Asher said.
While the answers are still unknown, the investigators agree someone out there has the missing pieces.
“I will tell ya, that every person on the department when i was there, i retired in 95, will be thrilled, and everyone involved in this case since then will be ecstatic, that it would be resolved,” Asher said.
As we continue this in-depth look at the case leading up to June 7, we will spend time Friday night examining the numerous false leads that frustrated investigators.