Man charged in Oklahoma slaying indicted in 2 Texas slayings; a suspect in Denton death

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — A man already charged with abducting and killing a 19-year-old woman in Oklahoma was indicted Thursday in the 1997 slayings of two girls in Texas.

A Galveston County grand jury indicted William Lewis Reece on murder counts in the deaths of 12-year-old Laura Smither of Friendswood and 17-year-old Jessica Cain of Tiki Island.

Reece was already serving a 60-year prison sentence in Texas for kidnapping earlier this year when he led police to graves where remains were found of Cain and Kelli Cox, a 20-year-old University of North Texas student who was last seen in Denton in 1997.

The 57-year-old registered sex offender is charged in Oklahoma with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the 1997 death of 19-year-old Tiffany Johnston.

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Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady said Reece wouldn’t be tried in Galveston until the Oklahoma case was resolved.

The murder indictments were sought because insufficient evidence had been gathered to support capital murder indictments, Roady said. Previously, Reece’s attorney, Anthony Osso, had said his client had hoped to avoid the death penalty by cooperating with authorities.

Smither’s remains were found near Pasadena, an east Houston suburb, more than two weeks after she failed to return from a morning jog in Friendswood in April 1997. Cain had been missing since August 1997, when her abandoned car was found on Interstate 45 near Tiki Island, a community across from Galveston Island. Her remains and those of Cox were exhumed last March from a pasture on the southern fringe of Houston.

Smither’s mother, Gay Smither, said Thursday that she had prayed throughout the time that her daughter was missing that she would return home. She said that when the girl’s remains were discovered, it at least provided some resolution.

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“Our prayers weren’t answered the way we wanted, but our prayers were answered,” she said. “Prayer does work. We may not like the answer we get.”

Gay Smither said she found comfort in knowing the man she believed to be responsible for her daughter’s death had already been locked up for years. However, she also said she had forgiven Reece and “would like to tell him that, to let him know he can change his life.”