Podcast generates buzz and new hope in Scott County cold case

Renewed interest in Mischelle Lawless case sparked by “The Lawless Files” podcast.
Lawless podcast sparks new interest in case
Updated: Feb. 22, 2022 at 9:45 PM CST
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SCOTT COUNTY, Mo. (KFVS) - It’s the buzz in the coffee shops, local restaurants and many places across southeast Missouri.

Not that the Lawless case has ever really been out of people’s minds, but recently it’s what many people are talking about.

On November 8, 1992, 19-year-old Mischelle Lawless was beaten and shot near the Benton exit of Interstate 55.

It’s a case that has haunted not only Mischelle’s family, but also the people of Scott County and so many others tied to this case.

That would also include journalists who have covered this story for years.

Bob Miller is one of those journalists who became consumed with the story.

“Was there something more sinister going on, digging into that I just couldn’t let it go,” said Bob Miller.

Bob Miller spent 24 years in the newspaper industry.

He worked as a reporter and then an editor until 2019.

The Lawless story and all of its many intricacies would follow him even as he moved on from a career in journalism.

He considered a book, which may still happen eventually, but came up with a relevant way to speak to a broad audience.

“I really felt like it was a story that the public really needed to understand,” said Miller.

He created a podcast called, “The Lawless Files.”

It’s a story that has had its share of twists and turns.

That includes the 1994 conviction of teenager, Joshua Kezer.

“Out of nowhere, I was snatched up 350 miles away from where I was living with my father then charged with a murder of a person I never met,” said Joshua Kezer.

Years later, the Lawless case would get reopened.

In 2009, Kezer was exonerated and released from prison.

“16 years behind bars and everything I have been through has tortured me, has scarred me,” said Kezer. “I have no reason to be afraid.”

That’s what Kezer told Crystal Britt a few years back when they met for an interview at a restaurant in Columbia, Mo.

Even today, Kezer believes fear is one of the reasons why there has been little movement in this case.

“I know some people have told me they are afraid of losing their lives, they are afraid of being killed because we are talking about killers who haven’t been brought to justice,” said Kezer.

Bob Miller has his own concerns, but has put those aside.

“It’s important enough to put my safety at risk,” Miller.

That’s because Miller said this story goes much deeper than the murder of Lawless.

The documents he reads and sources throughout the podcast suggest corruption, cover-ups and scandals that have gone on for years in Scott County.

In January 2019, Amanda Oesch took over the office of Scott County Prosecuting Attorney.

“I would say I started looking through the Lawless case in March of that year,” said Amanda Oesch.

Right away, she said she wanted to get things in order.

“One of the first issues I had was this isn’t organized, it makes it extremely difficult to get up to speed as I’m taking notes on the case and looking at what needs to be done,” said Oesch. “It’s difficult to find what needs to be done because I’m making notes of what’s missing and then have to go search through the boxes that need to be there.”

Oesch said she enlisted help from the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Violent Crime Support Unit to help organize and digitize the Lawless investigation files.

Oesch also said she learned of a new unit being formed with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

She said that office focuses on cold cases and agreed to step into the Lawless investigation to provide assistance and an independent review of the case files.

“We do have a plan,” said Oesch. “We have a specific list of things that we work on going through. One of the other things about this case is the extensive physical evidence involved in this case.”

Bob Miller’s podcast has not only generated a lot of buzz within the community, but amongst elected officials.

“One of the platforms we have through Apple shows we have over 200,000 listens,” said Bob Miller.

He and his team have produced 12 episodes so far with more that 15 hours of content.

“Ultimately, the public has to say enough’s enough,” said Miller. “We have to demand better.”

The Scott County prosecutor credits the podcast with some of the new tips that have been coming into her office.

“I think the podcast has reignited the public interest in this case, I will say it’s done that,” said Oesch. “Some people have called my office as a result of the podcast.”

Oesch hopes that more people will come forward, even if they think that information may be insignificant.

“If you know something, if you heard something, absolutely reach out,” said Oesch. “I’m going to get people in contact with the right investigators and make sure we have all the information. It might be the break we’re looking for.”

Bob Miller also believes more people hold valuable information that could lead to an arrest and someone being held accountable.

He hopes one day soon he can upload the final episode, the one where the case is solved.

“These people are still out there with no consequences,” said Miller. “It’s going to take a change and better, more public scrutiny to get the changes that need to be done to make Scott County a safer place.”

As for new efforts by the Scott County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Joshua Kezer said this:

“Amanda Oesch is now in charge of a historically corrupt prosecutor’s office. She will need our accountability, support, and prayer. She was elected November 7, 2018. Until the announcement of The Lawless Files was released on November 8, 2021, and until Bob Miller pressed her multiple episodes in for a response to his work on his podcast, she hadn’t taken any transparent action. A lack of transparency doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of action, but it could, and it should cause us to question her commitment to the Lawless case, and encourage us to encourage her and hold her accountable.”

Both Kezer and Miller would like to see more FBI involvement.

As for getting federal authorities involved, Oesch told Heartland News that her office has consulted with federal authorities on multiple different issues like evidence and lab issues in the case.

“However, in order to involve the FBI or to do a federal investigation typically there has to be some sort of federal nexus involved such as believing a body was transported across state lines, or some interstate nexus that would warrant federal authorities stepping in,” said Oesch. “At this point, we don’t feel we have that nexus that the FBI or federal authorities would step in and take over a case like this.”

Most of the episodes of the podcast are free through a variety of platforms like Apple Podcasts, or Spotify. Some of the material is subscription based. To find out more, click here to access those episodes directly.

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