SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The 30th anniversary of three women who disappeared in Springfield, Missouri, was last June. Sherrill Levitt, 47, her daughter Suzanne, 19, and Stacy McCall, 18, went missing on June 7, 1992, without a trace from a home off East Delmar Street in Springfield, Missouri. The women became known as “The Springfield Three.”
Journalist Anne Roderique-Jones was 12 years old at the time of the disappearance and remembered hearing about the story on the news in her hometown.
“It was such a monumental moment for the town at that time,” she said. “I think my family would say, and most of our friends, that Springfield always felt really safe.”
“My parents never locked the doors. We didn’t have cellphones, so they would let us play outside with our friends until dinner time.”
As of June 7, 2022, The Springfield Police Department labeled the case cold.
“When this happened, it changed the way my mom certainly looked at things because we were closer to the age of two of the girls who disappeared. It made her a little more scared because everyone in the town thought they would be found at any time,” Roderique-Jones said.
She remembers the bright yellow posters of the missing women posted around Springfield.
“It was just a continuous news story that ran throughout Springfield for quite some time,” Roderique-Jones said.
Roderique-Jones studied journalism at San Francisco State University and moved to New York in 2007, where she wrote for various magazines on beauty, travel, food, and other topics.
With “The Springfield Three” case in the back of her mind, she became interested in true crime after listening to podcasts such as “Serial.”
One day, while training for a race, Roderique-Jones was listening to a true-crime podcast. She thought “The Springfield Three” would make a good book, but creating a podcast would better tell the story.
However, Roderique-Jones said she did not know how to create a podcast and did what anyone would do — turned to the internet.
“I Googled all of these podcast companies, and that helped you produce the story that you want. I ended up finding editaudio, this incredible team out of Canada, and they were very interested in taking on the story,” she said.
Roderique-Jones did interview other people but found this all-female to be the right fit.
“Immediately, they were compassionate about the story. They didn’t want to sensationalize the crime. They wanted to be really respectful of the families, and so for me, it was just an immediate fit because they wanted to tell the story because the story way I wanted to tell it,” she said.
By having a professional podcast production team, Roderique-Jones could focus on speaking with people and writing the episodes — all things she said she loves to do.
The production team “did all of the amazing technical work, and music, and all of the things that go into podcasting that I certainly didn’t know enough about. It was two teams that came together to make this work,” she said.
After being in print journalism for most of her career, Roderique-Jones said it was a nice change of pace.
“Before, I had interviewed celebrity dermatologists or sports stars, or influencers. It went from that to interviewing these victims that really had some heart-breaking, really traumatic things happen in their life, and we’re so vulnerable,” she said.
“It was so much more fulfilling to me being able to tell those stories than to tell the story of an influencer with millions of followers. Not that their story isn’t important.”
The goal Roderique-Jones set out for the “The Springfield Three: A small-town disappearance” podcast was to tell the story accurately and fairly in eight episodes, which consist of a background of Springfield and the Ozarks, a deep-dive into the women’s disappearance and speaking with former law enforcement, former journalists, family, friends, and the families of the victims involved.
Roderique-Jones and part of the production team flew to Springfield to record the initial episodes in Jan. 2020. There were plans to go back for more footage in later episodes, but most of the interviews were conducted over Zoom due to the pandemic.
“It’s nice to write a story about the place you’re from because you know it, and you have certain stories that you remember from your past or going to certain places that might correlate to what you’re writing at the time. It’s just really personal. You really want to do a good job. You really want to be accurate and engaging because it’s a place close to you,” she said.
While putting the podcast together, Roderique-Jones said her apartment looked like an episode of CSI with all of her poster boards of information that she used to put together a timeline of events.
She added that there was lots of research and fact-checking that went into the podcast as well.
“There really wasn’t the internet back then when this happened, and so, seeing if dates actually add up, looking at old newspaper articles and something that took so much longer to research.”
The entire podcast, from start to finish, was completed in two years. Once it was launched, there was an initial 500,000 downloads, and Roderique-Jones received feedback from listeners.
“A lot of people were giving their theories as to what happened and were super involved, which was great. But then we had family members reach out who wanted to speak that otherwise hadn’t in the past. We also had some stories about people that were directly involved,” she said.
With extra content, three bonus episodes were recently released.
“In the bonus episode, a woman talks about an experience she had with one of the suspects that was really traumatic. She didn’t realize that it was one of the suspects until she saw him on a crime show,” Roderique-Jones said.
Listeners can hear “The Springfield Three: A small-town disappearance” wherever they get their podcasts.