Springfield, Missouri, is yet again the setting for a popular true crime podcast.
Springfield-native Anne Roderique-Jones is a successful writer, reporter, and works as the Head of Content for Sherman’s Travel Media in New York City. She enjoys covering lifestyle, food, and travel, and has written for outlets such as USA TODAY Travel and Apartment Therapy, Vogue and Southern Living, among others.
She also has another very different passion for telling the untold mysteries of the Ozarks, and has a podcast about the Springfield Three with over one million listeners.
“I started listening to True Crime, and there wasn’t really a ton on the case [of the Springfield Three],” Roderique-Jones told the Daily Citizen in an interview Monday. “I mean, there were a few episodes dedicated to the Springfield Three, but because I knew it so well and was able to weave a personal narrative into it, I felt like a podcast was a really good platform for it.”
Her first season of the podcast focused solely on the missing women, titled “The Springfield Three: A Small-Town Disappearance.” After getting requests for another season, she rebranded the podcast with the new title, “Ozarks True Crime,” in which she opens the topic to span unsolved true crime throughout the area. She partnered with podcast producer Editaudio and returned to her hometown of Springfield to investigate the case of the Feeney Family Murders in her second season of the show.
Roderique-Jones is a graduate of Parkview High School and remembers the moment she heard of the missing Springfield Three. She was twelve at the time of the disappearance.
She said, “I was in junior high… It was different because there were three women, and two of them were young women. It happened on their graduation night and the entire community really just rallied around trying to find these women.”
Only a few years later, Roderique-Jones vividly remembers hearing about the Feeney Family Murders.
“With the Feeney Family Murders, it was that they actually had bodies. It was really gruesome and heartbreaking,” Roderique-Jones said. “With the sole suspect being the husband and a teacher — he taught where my cousins went to high school — that became instead of trying to find out who did it, it was like, did he do it?”
Season 1’s inspiration: The Springfield Three
In the early morning hours of June 7, 1992, friends Stacy McCall and Suzanne Streeter disappeared alongside Streeter’s mother, Sherill Levitt.
McCall and Streeter returned to Levitt’s home, located at 1717 E. Delmar St, after attending a graduation party on the night they graduated from Kickapoo High School in Springfield.
The three were planning to take a trip to local waterpark White Water in Branson, Missouri, the next day. They never made it to the small town 45 miles south to continue their celebrations.
Earlier this year, on the 30th anniversary of the day the three women went missing, local reporter Ron Davis for the Springfield Daily Citizen reflected on how locals vividly remember the moment the Springfield Three disappeared.
“For anyone living in the Ozarks in 1992, the case is a Kennedy moment. You remember where you were when you heard they were gone. You remember the billboards and the fliers, the horizontal handbills printed on yellow paper with the smiling faces of Sherrill, Suzie and Stacy and a one-word, all-caps headline: MISSING.
You remember how the newspaper ran a box with their faces and the number of days since they were taken, and when it hit 365, then 990, you wondered if the women would ever be found.
Today is day 10,917.”
Roderique-Jones takes a deep dive into the unsolved mystery of the Springfield Three in season one of her podcast, and the series was part of the inspiration for Davis to revisit the cold case. Being from Springfield helped her to shape her story.
“They all go back to the fact that they take place in Springfield, and that they’re unsolved. How do these go unsolved, and why aren’t they solved?” she said.
Season 2 and the Feeney Family Murders
Going into season 2, Roderique-Jones has expanded her show to tell stories about true crime all across the Ozarks.
“We came in to do this story, and in speaking with former and current journalists, people would say, ‘Oh, you should look into this case or look into this case.’ Some of these I didn’t even remember at all growing up there. There are definitely some more stories that we want to tell, which is part of the reason that we rebranded it, so that we could tell as many stories as we possibly could about this part of the world.”
Roderique-Jones says there are many stories to uncover and still to tell. For her second season, she has focused on the Feeney Family Murders.
Disclaimer: The series addresses true crime in detail. The second episode of the podcast goes into detail about the crime scene, which can be disturbing to some viewers.
“Everyone knew about the three missing women, and it was the fabric of Springfield woven into the story. A lot of people almost seem to forget about the Feeney family,” she said.
“I’m not exactly sure why they forgot or if they forgot, but it just doesn’t seem to be something that’s talked about.” Roderique-Jones wanted to help tell the story of this case and how it affects the daily lives of those in Springfield.
What are the Feeney Family Murders?
On February 26, 1995, Jon Feeney’s wife, Cheryl, and their two children were murdered in their Springfield, Missouri, home.
Jon Feeney was a beloved high school science teacher in Springfield who was acquitted in 1996 of killing his family the year prior.
Feeney claimed to be at a teacher’s conference at the Lake of the Ozarks at the time of the murder, and jurors found Feeney not guilty due to a lack of evidence. He was the sole suspect in the murder. Jon Feeney was acquitted at trial, but authorities still speculate that he drove back to Springfield in the middle of the night to commit the crime.
“Being able to tell these stories about the Ozarks to me feels more authentic because I know it. I grew up there. I went to Lake of the Ozarks where the conference was held that John Feeney was at,” she said.
“I knew all these towns and I knew that it took an hour and a half to get there. I think that allowed me to tell the story in a way that not only we’ve seen in my personal narrative, but just to tell it more authentically from a space that maybe someone else who’s not from there might not be able to.”
“We were able to interview some of Cheryl’s family members, who were really gracious with their time. And, of course, we never talked to them about details of the murders. We really just wanted to talk to them about how Cheryl and her two children were and let them tell their stories. That was difficult [to hear],” Roderique-Jones said.
Roderique-Jones was able to talk with the coworker and friend of the family who found Cheryl Feeney. She had never spoken to the media before being interviewed for the podcast.
“We studied up on trauma-informed reporting because it’s a very difficult subject matter. And not only is it difficult for anyone to listen to, but particularly when you’re interviewing the families,” she said.
While the genre of True Crime podcasting has gained popularity, Roderique-Jones says that it is important to remember that lives are impacted. “I think it’s probably good to know that the families are still out there. While for some people it’s a story or a form of entertainment, it’s real life for many of these people.”
Why true crime in the Ozarks?
For Anne Roderique-Jones, combining her passion for reporting with her interest in true crime gave her direction for the podcast.
“Because I knew it so well and was able to weave a personal narrative into it, I felt like a podcast was just kind of like a really good platform for it because True Crime is something that, rather than a book, actually works a lot better on a podcast platform,” she said.
She also addressed the ways in which this reporting differed from any other project she had worked on before. “It’s the type of reporting that I really enjoy. I love speaking with real people who have a story to tell. Throughout a lot of my career, it was interviewing celebrities or sports stars or something, and being able to interview people who actually are from my town, who grew up there, who remember this, it’s so much more real and vulnerable.”
There are many other cases that Anne Roderique-Jones hopes to explore in the future, and she says that she is only just getting started. There are other unsolved cases in Springfield, and leaves the question of if there is someone still out there.
While Roderique-Jones’ goal is not to solve the case, it is to tell the story in a new and unique way. “We’re always open to hearing all sides of the story. I can’t stress enough that we’re here to tell the story, not to put blame on anyone or to solve it, but we would love to hear more from the defense side of this.”
Season Two of the Ozarks True Crime podcast will launch Tuesday, Nov. 22, with two new episodes. Each Tuesday following, a new episode will be released. So far, the season has eight episodes, but Anne Roderique-Jones is open to potential bonus episodes.
The podcast can be found online at editaudio.com, or through any podcast streaming outlet.