Ozarks Unsolved: Who killed Shirley Jane Rose

Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 10:13 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2022 at 10:14 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Is Shirley Jane Rose’s killer out there? Detectives working the case think so.

The 9-year-old was walking home from her grandma’s house in Springfield on October 17, 1975. This was the last time she was ever seen alive. Decades later, no one has ever been arrested for her death.

She joins the list of Ozarks Unsolved.

Chapter One: A quick walk home

On October 17, 1975, 9-year-old Shirley Jane Rose spent the afternoon playing with her cousin at her grandmother’s house on 865 S. West Ave. in Springfield.

Her cousin, Kristi Foster, one of the last to see her alive, talked to KY3 News about their final moments together.

With Shirley’s mother’s permission, she was given the green light to spend the night at her grandma’s with her cousin. She just needed to run home to grab an overnight bag. While walking to her house at 1309 S. Scenic between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Shirley was abducted. Witnesses told police they saw her walking along Scenic, though her route has become part of the mystery.

Some witnesses said they saw Shirley talking to a guy in a blue Chevy car or truck. Others told police a Ford Torino. These eyewitness details would become some of the only details police received during their initial search for her.

Shirley’s mom, Joyce Rose, called the Springfield Police Department after she never returned to her house, and there was an extensive search of the neighborhood and area.

Neighbors and community members got involved, but nothing came up.

Over the weeks following her disappearance, detectives made lists of potential suspects but slowly, each one was cleared.

Shirley wouldn’t be found until almost two months later.

Chapter Two: Shirley is found

On December 13, 1975, two trappers found Shirley’s body in a shallow grave near McDaniel Lake.

Springfield Police Department’s Jack Sifford recalls he was asked to come to the lake to take photos of what was left of the body.

“Her legs were bent back to wear heels that touched her hips, and she had something of her clothing, I don’t know exactly what, but something was wrapped around her neck,” he says.

Investigators would later confirm that her blouse was wrapped around her neck. While the medical examiner couldn’t prove without a doubt this was the reason for her death. He said it was due to strangulation.

Captain Culley Wilson with the Springfield Police Department is still working on this case today and says from the reports he doesn’t believe she was kept alive for long after being abducted.

“The longer you keep a victim like that, the better chance you have to get caught,” he explains..“I would be surprised if they kept her over a day.”

Chapter Three: What happened to Shirley

The Springfield Police Department looked into many leads over the next few months. One involved a heavy focus on two brothers whose family owned a BBQ restaurant close to where Shirley lived.

Police even looked into local satan worshipper groups in the area to see if they might have any involvement. Things began to cool until 1982 when a Greene County Circuit judge published an open letter in the local newspaper.

Judge Don Clough wrote the letter, which has details of Shirley Jane’s murder, some that had never been told to the public before. That she was crying as she watched her own grave being dug out. That she was strangled with bare hands by her killer.

The judge received disciplinary actions for his letter, which he hoped would convince someone to confess. While the letter didn’t close the case, it did lead to a man being questioned but was let go.

Others turned to Shirley’s mom, Joyce Rose, for answers. She had been a marijuana dealer at the time of Shirley’s death, and some wondered if it could’ve been someone involved in that circle that could’ve done it.

The rumor had been that Joyce had accidentally ruined some marijuana, and dealers were looking to get paid. As punishment, they killed Shirley. Joyce denied this until her death.

Chapter Three: What now?

Investigators working on this case believe that it can still be solved. Some even say the killer is alive and living in the Ozarks.

They hope to use modern DNA technology to crack this case and say they have evidence they plan to submit to get more answers.

The family believes someone out there knows something.

If you have any information or tips to help solve this case, please call the Springfield Police Department or submit a tip HERE.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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