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Where did they go? New story of a Missouri mom, teens who disappeared decades ago

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Where did they go? New story of a Missouri mom, teens who disappeared decades ago

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The 30th anniversary of three women who disappeared in Springfield, Missouri is next 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. 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.

Anne Roderique-Jones is the writer of “The Springfield Three: A small-town disappearance” podcast.

“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.”

Authorities are still searching for the victims in this cold case nearly three decades and thousands of leads later, according to an article by KY3.

“When this happened, it really changed the way my mom certainly looked at things because we were closer to the age of two of the girls who disappeared. It definitely made her a little more scared, and because everyone in the town thought they would just 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 a variety of 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 how “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 really 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 due to the pandemic, the majority of the interviews were conducted over Zoom.

“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 that’s 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 that 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.

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Where are Hannibal’s ‘lost boys’? A cave and 55 years of questions

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Where are Hannibal’s ‘lost boys’? A cave and 55 years of questions

HANNIBAL, Mo. – The hometown of one of America’s most enduring and beloved authors is also the site of a decades-old mystery.

Nearly 55 years ago, two young brothers and their friend gathered shovels and flashlights on a spring afternoon to explore a cave in their hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. The boys shared a sense of adventure, much like the heroes of Mark Twain’s novels – Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

The families of Joey and Billy Hoag, 13 and 11 years of age, and 14-year Craig Dowell became worried when the boys failed to come home for dinner that evening. Local panic quickly brought national attention to the tiny river town in northern Missouri.

Theories and rumors emerged in the aftermath of their disappearance, some seeming more likely than others. Were they trapped underground by a cave-in? Had they absconded and left Hannibal without telling anyone? Or were they the victims of a notorious serial killer?

On May 9, 1967, the Hoags and Dowell went searching Murphy’s Cave on the southside of town, which had been exposed by construction for Highway 79. They were allegedly chased away by construction workers. That evening, their parents forbade them from going back.

This file image shows search efforts for three Hannibal boys who were last seen May 10, 1967 near cave openings on Hannibal’s south side. (Courtesy: Hannibal Courier-Post)

The boys made plans to go back to the cave after school the following day. On Wednesday, May 10, the boys left school, changed clothes, and went walking in the direction of Murphy’s Cave yet again. According to various accounts over the years, they were last seen between 4:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.

For more than a week, members of the Mark Twain Emergency Squad and the National Speleological Society searched Murphy’s Cave and others subterranean systems for any trace of the boys, due to fears they may have been trapped via a cave-in. The Hannibal mayor even requested the help of the Missouri National Guard.

Hannibal Police checked all departing trains the day the boys left to make sure they weren’t attempting to run away or, worse yet, had been kidnapped. Concerned citizens suggested authorities even search the various islands dotting the Mississippi River.

Psychics and clairvoyants of the day reached out with claims the boys were locked in a train car with oranges. That claim, like so many others, would bear no fruit and the preliminary search would be called off 10 days after the disappearance. By June, other searches ended with no clues as to the boys’ whereabouts.

Joey Hoag, Billy Hoag, and Craig Dowell had simply vanished without a trace.

In 2006, construction crews discovered an entrance to the Murphy’s Cave system while building a new elementary school along Highway 79. Searchers checked the cave but there was no evidence of the trio.

Hannibal's Lover's Leap
This image shows a memorial for the boys, located on Hannibal’s Lover’s Leap, just off Highway 79. (Courtesy: Hannibal Courier-Post)

The case would be the subject of several books and even a true crime-style podcast.

One person, who grew up in Hannibal and knew the Hoags, penned a book alleging psychics believe notorious killer John Wayne Gacy, whose victims include at least 33 boys and young men, murdered the Hoags and Dowell.

The Hoags’ surviving sister has wondered if there was a cover-up involving the construction company, which she said had workers routinely blasting in the area and did not put up signs or caution tape around any of the various cave openings caused by their work.

A plaque and stone monument sits atop the Lover’s Leap park overlooking the Mississippi River to honor the memory of the three boys.

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Former Arnold officer’s family asks for prayers after he returns to the hospital

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Former Arnold officer’s family asks for prayers after he returns to the hospital

CONCORD, Mo. – A former Arnold police officer is fighting for his life. Ryan O’Connor is at an area hospital where his family is asking for prayers and support.

A rosary prayer is planned later this afternoon at Assumption Church in south St. Louis County. The reason he’s in the hospital has not been disclosed but he could use everyone’s thoughts and prayers.

Ryan O’Connor was shot in the line of duty and was nearly killed in December of 2017. He was shot in the back of the head by a burglary suspect. The suspect, 29-year-old Chad Klahs, shot himself in the head after shooting O’Connor, and later died.

O’Connor was rushed to St. Anthony’s Medical Center with “life-threatening injuries.” But made it through surgery.

A few years after this incident in 2021, his stepson took the oath to protect and serve, representing the same police department. Early in December, 21-year-old Aidan Gansner fulfilled his dream to follow in the footsteps of his stepfather. O’Connor sat in the front row of the graduation ceremony.

If you would like to join to pray for the rosary for O’Connor, that’s going to be 3:30 this afternoon here at assumption Church on Mattis Road.

Pray the Rosary for Ryan’s Perfect Healing
Sunday, January 23rd at 3:30 pm
Assumption Church
4725 Mattis Road
St. Louis, MO 63128
Masks required

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Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill fined over $12K for pompom touchdown celebration

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Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill fined over $12K for pompom touchdown celebration

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The NFL has fined Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill over $12,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct following last Sunday’s Super Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hill was fined $12,875 after using a cheerleader’s pompoms to celebrate his touchdown, according to NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero.

No flag was flown during the celebration.

Hill tweeted Saturday following the announcement “I didn’t see no letter in my locker doesn’t count.”

The moment came after Hill caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter.

Video shows Hill running into the end zone, then continuing out the back and toward the fans. He stopped in front of signage that read Chiefs Kingdom and simply stared at the cheering fans.

Then Hill decided to go rogue. He grabbed pompoms from a nearby Chiefs cheerleader and did an impromptu dance of his own.

Jodi Rosanbalm shared the video she captured of the moment Hill started dancing away on Facebook. See the video in the player above.

Hill seemed to be so wrapped up in the celebration, Mahomes had to drag him back to the field to continue the game.

The Chiefs Cheerleaders also tweeted a victory Monday picture of the celebration unfolding.

The Chiefs return to Arrowhead Stadium Sunday evening to take on the Buffalo Bills come calling in the AFC Divisional Round. Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m.

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