William Reece Indicted 19 Years After Deaths of Cain, Smither

Nineteen years after two girls disappeared from Friendswood and Tiki Island, the man long suspected of being responsible for their deaths has been indicted on murder charges.

A Galveston County grand jury indicted William Reece Thursday, not long after human remains belonging to Jessica Cain were discovered in a horse pasture in April. The body of Laura Smither, who was 12 when she went missing in Friendswood in 1997, was discovered within days in Pasadena.

Reece has been in prison since 1998 after he was convicted of kidnapping a woman in Oklahoma, who ultimately escaped from Reece and called police. Most of the women suspected of being his victims, however, were not afforded the same fate.

Jessica Cain disappeared in 1997 when she was 17, following a dinner party with fellow cast members of a high school play, while Smither disappeared from Friendswood after going on a jog. At the time Reece was suspected of kidnapping them, he had been out of prison for roughly one year, having finished a ten-year sentence for kidnapping and raping two other women in Oklahoma. According to the Houston Chronicle, he has been suspected, charged or convicted in at least seven incidents, five of which were in 1997 alone. 

Interest was renewed in the Cain and Smither cases last fall after Reece was indicted in September 2015 in the murder of a 19-year-old Oklahoma woman, whose case had also dragged on for 18 years before being solved. DNA tests from that case linked Reece to other kidnappings from that time period. Ultimately, Reece was temporarily released from prison and into the custody of Galveston County officials this spring to lead investigators to the site of the burials of both Jessica Cain and another woman Reece is suspected of killing, Kelli Cox. Many speculated that Reece was cooperating in hopes that he would not be given the death sentence in any of the cases.

KPRC reported that Galveston County has agreed to that request, though it is unclear if Oklahoma authorities are willing to do the same.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn