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Search for body in southeast Houston field may be tied to cold cases, sources say

HOUSTON – Multiple sources tell Channel 2 Investigates the recent search for a body in a southeast Houston field comes as part of ongoing investigations into unsolved killings and disappearances of young girls in the Galveston County area in the late 1990s.

For the past three days, search crews including Texas Rangers, La Marque police, the FBI and Texas EquuSearch have been looking for a body. Multiple sources tell KPRC 2 it could be the body of Jessica Cain, a girl who disappeared nearly 20 years ago.

KPRC 2 has learned a man named as a suspect in at least one of those cases has been temporarily released from prison to the custody of Galveston County authorities, who are involved in the recent searches.

In 1998, William Lewis Reece was thrust into the public eye. Reece was convicted of the 1997 kidnapping of Sandra Sapaugh in Webster. Reece was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

At the time of his conviction, Reece was also named as a suspect, but never charged, in the killing of 12-year-old Laura Smither. The young girl disappeared from her Friendswood neighborhood in April 1997.

Texas prison officials said Reece was temporarily released from prison on Feb. 16 to the custody of Galveston County officials. Prison records show a bench warrant for Reece was issued from Galveston County. The nature of that warrant has not yet been made public.

Several sources have said recent searches by investigators in Brazoria and Harris counties are a result of talks with Reece. So far police are not saying what they are looking for or if anything has been found.

Cain disappeared within months of Smither, but Reece was never identified as a suspect.

On Wednesday, search crews started digging for what sources told us could be Cain's body in an open field after Reece apparently tipped off cops.

These developments are far from the end of Reece's troubles. Before coming to Texas, Reece served prison time in Oklahoma for rape. Reece was also recently charged in Oklahoma with the 1997 kidnapping and killing of 19-year-old Tiffany Johnston.

Police said the case remain unsolved until Reece's DNA matched evidence found at the scene of the teen's slaying.

KPRC 2 spoke with Cain's father on the phone Friday evening and he said that unless crews find Jessica's body, the family will continue to assume that she is still alive.

Cain's father also said they are considering the possibility that Jessica was taken out of the country after she disappeared.