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  1. #1
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    The Obscene Phone Calls

    I am starting a thread to capture what we know, and what we have said, about the three obscene phone calls (one erased by Janelle and Mike, two more reported by them?) made to Sherrill's home between Friday and Monday. I am keeping the comments in order and grouping them primarily for readability so no one post grows too long (not intending to highlight any one post or anyone point of view. including my own.)

    Tangledweb began the conversation at post #634:

    An obscene telephone call was left on Levitt's answering machine on
    June 5. However, before police cold hear it the message was erased,
    apparently by accident, by someone who came looking for the women
    before officers were called. - News-Leader, August 3, 1992.
    Was anyone able to recall the content of this obscene phone call and was it ever determined to have any link to the case? Was it a random call or specifically directed at someone who lived in the house?

    Hurricane in reply to tangledweb, post #637:

    It was a random call directed at no one in the Levitt household; an elderly gentleman was arrested that late summer/fall (August perhaps?) for making such calls all over Springfield.


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  3. #2
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    Hurricane in response to my question about his source, post #649:

    The News-Leader. People all over Springfield had been receiving obscene phone calls all spring and summer. An older man was arrested by SPD either in the late summer or early fall. If my memory serves me I believe it was August. I have the article and will look it up later when I have more time.

    The phone call to 1717 was made on June 5th. We know that Janelle had made several calls on the morning of June 7th to the Leavitt home leaving messages concerning their planned trip to Whitewater in Branson. Later when they were all inside the home and trying to figure out where the women had went and where they could be it seems to me that it would only be natural to check the answering machine. If Janelle's messages had been eraced then it would help establish a time line as to when the women left the house. Had they been there when Janelle called, perhaps still asleep and received the messages when they woke up and erased them? Had they received the first message and erased it before leaving, and the later messages Janelle left still on the machine? Such questions could be answered by the messages left on the machine and give them a timeline as to when the women might have left the house, and possibly offer an answer to where they went. Remember that at this point in time no one suspected any foul play to be involved. So I find no fault with anyone listening to the phone messages under the circumstances. There is nothing sinister here; they were all friends anyway.

    Upon hearing the obscene, vulgar phone message someone took it upon themselves to erase it. Their thoughts in doing so were probably along the lines that Sherrill or Suzie didn't need to hear something like that. Again, no idea that a crime had been committed; their friends had just stepped out; but where did they go was the question. And I think that women would probably be more inclined to erase the message than men would. Most of the people who were in and out of the house that day were women friends.

    Tangledweb, in response to Hurricane, post #650:

    Considering the call was made on Friday, June 5, Sherrill and/or Suzie most likely listened to the message since they didn't disappear until early Sunday morning on the 7th and had been home on the 6th. Interesting that they themselves didn't erase it.

    Troogrit, about the source for the arrest of an obscene phone caller, post #661:

    Now as far as the obscene calls there is an article about a local man who was the source of these calls being caught. I do not have the article but it is titled "City man suspect in obscene phone calls." NL Dec. 03, 1992.


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  5. #3
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    Hurricane, explaining why the obscene phone calls aren't relevant, post #663:

    It was reported by the N-L that an obscene message was recorded and left on Sherrill’s answering machine on Friday, June 5th. We don’t know what time it was recorded and we don’t know if either Sherrill or Suzie ever heard it. The call could have come in late that Friday night and for whatever reason (example: Sherrill in shower, Suzie not home) no one was available to answer and did not hear the message as it was being recorded. Saturday, June 6th was a busy day with graduation that afternoon. Perhaps no one thought to check the answering machine and therefore the message was still on the machine on Sunday, June 7th when Janelle or someone checked to see if Janelle’s messages were still there in an effort to establish when the women might have left the house. How do we know that it was recorded on June 5th? It stuck in the minds of those who heard it because it was a vulgar, obscene message. At this point during that day Janelle was probably still in the stage of being curious as to where her friends were or perhaps to the stage of being mad, thinking that her friends went to Whitewater without her, as she has said. Regardless, someone made the decision that Suzie or Sherrill didn’t need to hear the obscene message and erased it. Unknown to the public at that time such calls were being received all over Springfield that spring and summer; an arrest was made and all such calls stopped. Why is it such a stretch to believe that this was just another obscene call like those being received all over town?

    pittsburghgirl, in response to Hurricane's question, post #664:

    Because 24-48 hours later, the women who lived in that house disappeared. The caller may well have been the person who was caught making calls "all over Springfield." Or not.

    Hurricane, in response to pittsburghgirl, post #665

    No one who was in the house that day who heard the recorded message has ever said that it was directed at either Sherrill or Suzie; no names were used. No one has described the message as threatening in nature. It has only been described as obscene.

    pittsburghgirl, obsessing about sources, post #667:

    Source? Who are these people? Who heard the message? To whom did they describe it? Where's the source here? Is this in the public record? Or are you repeating what someone in the house told you?

    Trooogrit, post #669:

    Its public record at least in the paper, I will look for it over the weekend. There were several little things early on that were reported, but didnt gain momentum, that was one of them.


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    dale417 responds in post 672:

    My combination of quotes from Hurricane that follow later than this post. I don't recall anyone mentioning anything that was on the message tape. What's the source of your assumption that the message wasn't [intended] for Sherill, suzie or STACIE?

    Your statement of the message not being threatening is typical of this area where women are portrayed as chattel or subjective to what any man cares to pursue. It's the holy thing for the woman to do...

    How can you honestly believe that an obscene message would NOT be threatening to a household of a mother and daughter alone, especially having moved into the house two months earlier?

    Hurricane, in ironic mode, post #694:

    Here's more on the now infamous obscene phone call message and how it came to be erased:

    An obscene telephone call was left on Levitt’s answering machine on June 5. However, before police could hear it the message was erased, apparently by accident, by someone who came looking for the women before officers were called. N-L, Aug. 3, 1992.
    Last edited by pittsburghgirl; 06-10-2009 at 01:12 PM. Reason: corrected "indented," which was clearly meant to be "intended".


  7. #5
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    The Subsequent Obscene calls, Sunday

    Trooogrit, post #709, clarifying some of the events of Sunday afternoon, but starting a new discussion about more obscene calls on Sunday.

    Considering all of the accounts of what happened that day and all of the misconceptions I found a pretty good article that explains the day pretty well.

    "At around 8:30 a.m. Janelle made the first of maybe a dozen calls to the Levitt home that day."

    "At around 1 p.m. Janelle called Janis and told her that Stacy had spent the night at Suzies mothers house. The phone was new and unlisted and Janelle gave her the number. Janice called and left a message for her daughter."

    It was early afternoon when Janelle and boyfriend Mike Henson arrived at 1717 East Delmar St.

    Dressed for water Janelle let Mike knock to avoid stepping barefooted on glass that had covered SHerrills still glowing front porch light. Janelle saw through open blinds the pulled back covers of Sherrill's bed. From the carport, Suzie's bedroom blinds stuck in an open eye position as if someone had looked out.

    Maybe Suzie had, maybe that is when the volume to her still on TV was turned down.

    " I really didnt think anything of it." Janelle says.

    She punched a button and listened as her voice replayed on the morning phone messages. She called the mother of another friend.
    Should she lock the door? No. THey'd be back soon. It would be embarrasing to lock Sherrill out of her own house."

    They cleaned up the glass and left.

    They drove the neighborhood asking an elderly couple if there was a swimming pool nearby. Maybe they were there?

    There was no pool and the couple went to friends house for a couple hours. They called Levitt's house one more time and then went back again at around 3:30 p.m.

    Everything was the same. THe phone rang, an obscene caller---always unsettling but it happens. He quickly called back.

    THey drove to get some food, and Janelle was crying in the backseat. Mike assured her nothing was wrong. They went to Hyda-slide in south Springfield for some fun.

    Stacy's mom had called a couple more times that day, then "we did our own thing."

    It was nice family time Janice and Stu, her mother, there daughter Lisa and her boyfriend John and a little boy who idolized John. The youngest McCall Janis assured herself was at Whitewater.

    It closed at 6 p.m. and there was a parental expectation of a timely return. The post graduating timeline alibi had expired. As 7p.m. passed Janice was concerned. SHe called the Levitt house again.

    At 7:30 concern fell into panic with the phone call from a mother of a kickapoo classmate "Did you know when Janelle went over to Suzies all the cars and all the purses were there?

    Janis had not been told this by Janelle and the others who had been there that day. "They didnt want me to get upset"

    Janis found Janelle and Mike at the hydraslide and 10 people converged on the home.

    NL June 6, 1993.

    (I am not sure if the whole post is quoted, or if some parts not in quotes are Trooogrit commentary. I am sure Trooogrit will clarify. Great article to post for the current discussion, by the way. Colored text is my emphasis--pittsburghgirl)


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  9. #6
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    Thank you PittsburghGirl!
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    Smile

    There's more to come--I just have to leave for a while!!


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    I am unclear - was there just one call or three? Were the other two messages found on the machine too?

    Personally, I think it is weird to go erasing someone's answering machine messages - obscene or not. Actually, I think if it were obscene I would definitely save it so the girls could listen to. If some creep was leaving weird messages on my machine I would want to know about it.

    So, Janelle listened to the message but was never able to recall what exactly it said?
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    The Rest of the Obscene Call Discussion, Thread 3

    I hope I haven't missed anything big. Here are the last two posts:

    pittsburghgirl, post #727

    Am I reading this correctly? There was another obscene call on Sunday afternoon? The "he" in "he quickly called back" seems to suggest that the obscene caller called BACK--a third call, if we consider the one that we discussed a few days ago that supposedly came on Friday.

    Am I crazy? Three women disappear in the wee hours of the morning and that afternoon someone is making obscene calls--and it isn't a clue?

    Trooogrit, post #729

    Well this is something so glaring that anyone would look at it as a potential clue. That is the problem looking at this 17 years later, people do not know to what extent it was looked at. Some people might even believe that it was not looked at. Similar thinking in the questioning of the 18 people who entered the house. I do not know where to look to verify what was done about these obvious clues and what procedure occurred. What I look at is the events, and to some degree trust that an investigator is gonna do his job, remember there were 30 cops, the FBI and the MHP involved early on. Now within the first 2 weeks the SPD came to the conclusion that this crime was motivated by sexual assault. This tells me that the obvious things were checked out and that some of the clues not known by the public, (which there are clues not known) led them down this path. WHY? What gave them this impression. That is the information we should seek in my opinion.


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  14. #10
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    Gaia, I don't have an exact answer to your question. But here is what these posts above seem to indicate:

    1. There was an obscene call made to Sherrill's home on Friday, June 5. It was recorded on her answering machine. According to the News-Leader, this call was erased by someone in the house on Sunday after the women were abducted. Evidently, someone at the house who played back Sherrill's messages reported the message and the fact that it was erased to the police. The person who did the erasing is not mentioned in the snippet we have from the article; Hurricane's interpretation of this event also does not identify who played the messages, erased this one, or informed the police about the call and what happened to it.

    2. Evidently, someone who was making obscene calls in Springfield was a "suspect" the following December, again according to the N-L, "City Man Suspect in Obscene Phone Calls." NL Dec. 03, 1992. We don't as yet have any information about the disposition of this case--whether the suspect was charged or adjudicated guilty. We also have no verification that this obscene caller (a suspect 6 months after the women disappeared) made the Friday call or the ones that followed on Sunday.

    3. Because the message was erased, there is no record of what was said or if the message was directed at anyone in particular.

    4. The second obscene call came on Sunday around 3:30, when Janelle and Mike had gone back to Sherrill's. They answered the phone while they were there; it was an obscene call. The N-L had this to say in June 1993:
    "Everything was the same. The phone rang, an obscene caller---always unsettling but it happens. He quickly called back."

    I am reading this as the obscene caller called back. (Who else would "he" be?)

    So we have three obscene calls to a NEW number, one within 24-36 hours before the women disappeared, and one no more than 12-14 hours after they disappeared.

    We don't know what was said on any of the three calls, although we can safely assume that LE knew about the calls, as the fact of them appeared in the media; LE may have been the N-L's source, since there was no attribution or identification of the person or persons who heard the first call. We also don't know if more calls came after Sunday, if the police left the machine hooked up.

    • The calls could be a coincidence, just random calls.
    • They could have been made by the December 1992 "suspect" and have no connection to this case.
    • They could have been made by the grave robbers, against whom Suzie was scheduled to testify.
    • They could have been made by someone else who was "interested" in Sherrill or Suzie, even a high school boy.
    • They could have been made by someone involved in the abductions.

    I haven't seen articles in which LE commented on the obscene calls. And if they did comment and claimed publicly there was no connection, what would THAT tell us? LE might KNOW there is no connection, if they know the source of the calls. Or they might suspect there is a connection, if they know the source of the calls. Or they may not know who made the calls. The gap of 6 months between the calls to Sherrill's and the naming of an obscene caller in Springfield suggest at least the possibility that these three calls could be specific to Sherrill or Suzie; their proximity and number clustered around the abduction suggests at least the possibility that the caller knew about or was involved in the abductions. And let me vent for a moment: if some helpful person hadn't erased the Friday message, this might not even be an issue.

    This is exactly the kind of clue that we can investigate, at least to the extent of learning the technical possibilities of tracing obscene calls in 1992.

    The next step, it seems to me, is to find out if LE could identify the source of the calls. Any ideas? I'm going to start by asking my FBI sources.


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  16. #11
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    One more thing. I think I assumed (bad idea) that Janelle or Mike just picked up the phone when it rang on Sunday. The article doesn't say that; it just says it was an obscene call and the caller (male) called back. So given this article, it is possible that one or both calls were screened and recorded.


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  18. #12
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    I count three calls, the first one on June 5, and two more which evidently were not recorded on June 7 at approximately 3:30 PM heard by Jannelle, if I read the narrative correctly.

    While we can logically conclude the two calls of June 7 were from the same individual, we can't also conclude the first erased call was from the same person.

    If there were two different people, the one from June 5 and the two from June 7, then the erased call could have been critical for voice identification purposes. Obviously the FBI would have been ideally positioned to potentially identify this person with their sophisticated voice analysis technology.

    The question I would ask is even if the same person placed all three calls why would the Levitt residence be targeted? If such calls were being placed all over the area, it would appear this individual must have spent most of his time making such calls and is obviously mentally ill and not likely a viable suspect. But because we don't know the identity of the first caller or any way to compare the calls we can't say whether there are one or two individuals.

    A thought: We do not know that the suspect who was making these phone calls "all over the area" is the same person who made the two phone calls on June 7. Is it not conceivable that the abductor(s) were placing random telephone calls to the residence to determine if anyone had happened onto the crime scene? While he/they would not have wanted to reveal themselves by revisiting the crime scene that day it would be in their interest to see if some commotion was developing there in order to adjust their activities to evade detection; possibly moving the women if they were still alive. An impersonal phone call tells them that there are people on the scene and the "cat is out of the bag." The vulgar comments might simply have been an afterthought. Obviously, the caller wouldn't have come out and asked if the cops were on the scene yet. It could have been yet another "ruse" to gather information if the receiving party would blurt out that "give us a break, we have three women missing." Do we know what Jannelle may have said to this person?

    A subsequent phone call to the McCall residence was of a woman stating the "old woman was dead" and the two girls dead as well. But that was AFTER the news reports had come out. The phone calls to the Levitt home were well before this news item hit the airwaves and newspaper. That person was identified and had nothing to do with the abductions. I don't recall what the outcome of the incident came to.
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  20. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Missouri Mule View Post
    A thought: We do not know that the suspect who was making these phone calls "all over the area" is the same person who made the two phone calls on June 7. Is it not conceivable that the abductor(s) were placing random telephone calls to the residence to determine if anyone had happened onto the crime scene? While he/they would not have wanted to reveal themselves by revisiting the crime scene that day it would be in their interest to see if some commotion was developing there in order to adjust their activities to evade detection; possibly moving the women if they were still alive. An impersonal phone call tells them that there are people on the scene and the "cat is out of the bag." The vulgar comments might simply have been an afterthought. Obviously, the caller wouldn't have come out and asked if the cops were on the scene yet. It could have been yet another "ruse" to gather information if the receiving party would blurt out that "give us a break, we have three women missing." Do we know what Jannelle may have said to this person?
    Wow. What a smart post. Of course, the Friday and Sunday calls might not have been from the same caller. And the Sunday calls could well have been made to check out what is going on at the house. Duh. I've spent two or three days thinking "sex crime!" "obscene calls!" "perverts!" without thinking about WHY the calls might be made.


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  22. #14
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    So what would we like to know about these calls if we could? Here's my starter list:

    1. Was it possible for law enforcement to identify who called Sherrill's house in the days before and after the abduction? They are aware of a call between Sherrill and a friend on Saturday night; did that knowledge come from a technological investigation or from interviewing her friends?
    2. If LE has the knowledge of who called the house, then: who called, and when? Because what MM said about the obscene call is also true of just regular calls. A perpetrator known to the women might call the house either to find out if anyone was in there, thus hastening the moment when the crime would be discovered, or to embellish an alibi ("I called Sherrill/Suzie on Sunday to say X, Y or Z but no one answered"). Think of how many spouses who kill "call home" and feign surprise that no one answers (case in point, the lowlife who just murdered his wife and sons).
    3. Was Sherrill's number listed?? Somewhere in one of the articles, I recall that the number was new, since she had just moved. But was it listed?
    4. Did Sherrill or Suzie mention to anyone that they had been receiving obscene calls? The fact that someone called Friday and again Sunday twice and not Saturday (so far as we know) suggests a certain persistance. Had there been calls before? On the other thread, someone speculated that Sherrill might not have listened to her messages from Friday, thus explaining why the obscene call was still on the machine. Saturday was a busy day. On the other hand, there was a teenage girl living in the house. They live and die for messages (now voicemail, email, texts, and facebook/myspace posts). And given the special nature of the day, certainly Sherrill might have expected calls from her father, sister, and other friends in regard to Suzie's big day. We know she took a call Saturday night. So it is probably more likely rather than less likely that she heard the message.
    5. How long had the calls been going on?
    6. Were there more after Sunday?
    7. It seems odd that a caller making obscene calls to a home where three women were abducted wouldn't be identified as an obscene caller suspect for another 6 months. Why the lag? Lack of technology to identify the caller?
    8. Is there any evidence of obscene calls on Saturday? Sherrill and Suzie would have been home before and after graduation. They could have picked up the phone and not use the machine to screen their calls. Is their a record of who called Saturday?

    Please--add more!


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  24. #15
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    Here's one line of thinking.

    Let's postulate that Friday was the first call. It is recorded on the answering machine either because Sherrill or Suzie is screening or they aren't home. The call is saved because:
    • Suzie heard the call first and is upset and wants her mom to hear the call;
    • Sherrill wants evidence of the call;
    • The women have had other calls and have agreed not to erase one if it is recorded;
    • They suspect the call is related to the grave robbing case;
    • They think they know who the caller is;
    • A combination of the above.


    Let's postulate that the calls either started Friday or not long before Friday. What are the possibilities? If no other obscene calls came in on Saturday--or no other calls from that same number--why Friday and Sunday? Saturday would have been an ideal time for such calls, for the average pervert, with the women predictably home getting ready for graduation or for Saturday night activities. Why would the day of the abduction be the day there is no call? If the calls are related to the abduction, perhaps the perpetrator(s) use the Friday obscene call to scope out when the women are home or not and to create fear. The Sunday calls could be to figure out if anyone is in the house; the second call to figure out WHO is in the house. A woman's voice with a certain kind of reaction would probably be friend, neighbor, etc. Male voice of a certain tone: police.


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