Man accused in cold case murder of Oklahoma teen leads investigators to more human remains

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BRAZORIA COUNTY, Texas – A man accused in the cold case murder of an Oklahoma teenager is now leading investigators to more human remains in the Houston area.

In 1997, 19-year-old Tiffany Johnston was abducted from the Sunshine Car Wash in Bethany, Okla.

Tiffany Johnston
Tiffany Johnston

The next day, July 27, her body was found just south of I-40 in Canadian County.

According to the medical examiner’s office, Johnston was strangled to death.

At the time, biological evidence was taken from Johnston’s body.

William Lewis Reece, who frequented the car wash, admitted to investigators that he knew Johnston’s family, but investigators were not able to link the crime to him.

In September 2015, advancements in DNA testing resulted in a match to the 56-year-old, according to investigators.

William Reece
William Reece

Reece is currently serving time in Texas for aggravated kidnapping and theft.

Since being charged with Johnston’s murder, Reece has led authorities to at least two other sets of human remains in the Houston area.

On April 5, law enforcement officials announced human remains were discovered at a dig site in Brazoria County where crews were searching for the body of 20-year-old Kelli Ann Cox, who also disappeared in 1997.

Although the remains have not been identified, Reece reportedly told investigators he buried Cox’s body there.

According to KPRC, Cox disappeared on July 15, 1997 after touring the Denton jail with her criminology class. She phoned her boyfriend to pick her up from a payphone nearby, but was never heard from again.

At the time, police identified Reece as a “person of interest” in the case, but he was never charged.

Kelli Cox, 20, with her daughter.
Kelli Cox, 20, with her daughter.

Cox and Johnston are two of five women who were kidnapped, disappeared, or murdered in 1997 under similar circumstances.

Sources tell KPRC all five are connected to Reece.

On March 18, Reece led authorities to another set of human remains in the Houston area.

Officials believe that set of remains belongs to 17-year-old Jessica Cain, who also disappeared in 1997.

Jessica Cain
Jessica Cain

However, the remains have not yet been identified.

He is also suspected of kidnapping and murdering 12-year-old Laura Smither in 1997.

According to KPRC, Sandra Sapaugh is the only woman known to have encountered Reece and survived.

She was kidnapped in 1997, but survived by jumping out of his truck as it sped down a highway.

Reece was convicted of kidnapping Sapaugh and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

According to KPRC, Reece moved to Houston in 1996, after serving time in Oklahoma for rape.

Laura Smither
Laura Smither

Timeline of cases Reece is believed to be connected to:

  • April 3,1997: 12-year old Laura Smither was abducted while jogging near her Friendswood home. Her body was found two weeks later.
  • May 1997: 19-year-old Sandra Sapaugh was kidnapped at knife point from a gas station in Webster. She survived.
  • July 15, 1997: Kelli Ann Cox vanished. The University of North Texas student was last seen a gas station in Denton.
  • July 26, 1997: 19-year old Tiffany Johnston disappeared from a car wash near Oklahoma City. Her body was found in a ditch.
  • August 17, 1997: Jessica Cain disappeared.

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