Friday, March 22, 2013

The Springfield Three

This is nothing to do with The Simpsons, so if that's how you ended up here, you can stop reading and look elsewhere.

I watched an American programme today on the ID channel, called "Disappeared". Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a programme which charts - mainly - cases of people who have gone missing and never been found. So far, so normal.

Today's episode however, has bothered me a great deal since it was on. So much so that for the first time in over a year, I feel the urge to write something.

If you think the UK police are incompetent, please read this and be AMAZED by the ending.

Here's the background as much as I can guarantee.

It's Missouri, in 1992. There are two girls, Suzie Streeter, 19, and Stacy McCall, 18, who, after their graduation ceremony, go to a party. After the party ends, they intended to go to one place (a motel) but decide against it, preferring to stay at a friend's house. But this friend's house is full of her out-of-state relatives (who were there for the graduation ceremony) so Stacy goes home with Suzie, to the house of Suzie's mother, Sherrill Levitt.

Got that? Were supposed to go to place A, thought about going to place B, ended up at place C, which was Suzie Streeter's mother's house. Next morning, the two girls are due to meet up with the other friend (the one with out-of-state relatives) and go to a water park near the motel they were supposed to have stayed in but didn't. The friend waits for a phone call from them (this is in the days before mobile phones) but doesn't hear anything and worries that they've gone on without her. In order to check what is going on, she drives over to the Sherrill Levitt's house where they had spent the night.

Three cars are there (the girls had travelled separately in two cars, Sherrill Levitt also had a car), their three handbags are there, but the three people are not.

Police are eventually called when it becomes obvious that something untoward has gone on. Investigation starts.

Fast-forward 15 years, to 2007. A local newspaper publishes a sad anniversary piece about this unsolved disappearance. There's a mention in the report about the police receiving messages on their tip line about the three women being buried in the concrete flooring of a hospital's car park. The police don't believe this.

"Pffft, psychics" you can pretty much hear in the text.

It turns out that in 2006 (a year earlier) Kathee Baird, an investigative reporter, had heard rumours about the car park being the location of the bodies, and had hired a ground penetrating radar specialist to scan the car park. The specialist, Rick Norland, had previously worked on the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks, when he was searching for bodies. Baird says she did not provide Norland with any information prior to him scanning the area.

Norland says his scans show three anomalies, roughly 3 feet below the surface of the cement. Two were side by side; the third was by itself. The anomalies were about 2 feet wide, and the soil changes were between 5 and 7 feet long.

"These anomalies are very consistent with what a gravesite would look like," Norland said. "The next thing would be to come back in and do positive identification by a core sample - drill down through there and poke a camera or some sort of device in there and examine what is there. That way you can determine what that anomaly is."

Both Baird and Norland took their findings to police (this is in 2006, remember).

"We talked to the police a couple times, and they are very sceptical of the equipment and what I did," Norland said. "The detectives said, 'I don't know what it is.' They were very adamant about not proceeding forward."

So adamant, that a year later, FIFTEEN YEARS into an investigation of the disappearance of three women, the police were essentially decrying the evidence that Baird and Norland had brought them as being equivalent to the ravings of "psychics".

And this, I will remind you, is THIS century, in the age of the internet, and probably a decade after anyone who ever watched Time Team in the UK was aware of ground penetrating radar.

"Still," I thought to myself, "it can't take that long to do a little reading up, can it?"

Fast-forward to 2011, and Investigation Discovery Channel make the "Disappeared" TV episode I'm sitting watching. At the end of the show, there's a news report which says the police and hospital administrators are about to have meetings about digging up the car park. And the show ends.

"So" I think, "they must have more information by now", and I have a look online.

I suggest you give it a go. There's a Wiki page on it, which links to a page written by Kathee Baird in 2009 prior to Stacy McCall's mother being interviewed on TV about the investigation. The comments underneath this article gave me some answers about whether the police have any information or people in custody.

No, no they haven't. Not only do they not have any more information, they haven't even gotten around to DIGGING UP THE CAR PARK.

Over a year since the programme was broadcast, nearly seven years since the area was scanned, the car park remains completely untouched!

I am at a loss to understand how. How can the police justify not digging a series of holes and sticking a camera into them? Just to prove it's not the area where the bodies are, at the very least. The families have been waiting for over 20 years for resolution, and it would take what, six hours? To clear up the hospital car park location, one way or the other, it would take them less than one working day.

Words fail me.

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