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Process started to move accused killer out of state

HOUSTON – An accused killer being held in the Friendswood City Jail was served with legal paperwork Thursday, notifying him Oklahoma prosecutors were seeking his transfer to their state. William Reece, who is a suspect in three Texas murders, is charged with capital murder in Oklahoma.

Reece has been in the Friendswood City Jail for several months as he worked with detectives on the unsolved murders of three women from the late 1990s. Reece remains the prime suspect in those cases but has not yet been charged.

“At this point it is our intent to get him back to Oklahoma, where he can answer for those charges,” said Galveston County prosecutor Kevin Petroff.

Reece was charged last year with the 1997 murder of Tiffany Johnston outside of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma prosecutors let Reece stay in Texas so he could lead detectives to the bodies of Jessica Cain and Kelli Ann Cox. Both disappeared in 1997 and their cases remained unsolved until this year. Reece is also the only suspect in the murder of Laura Smither; she too was murdered in 1997 and her body discovered shortly after she disappeared.

“We've wrapped up our necessary investigation involving William Reece, that's why we intend to get him back to Oklahoma,” said Petroff.

Reece's attorney, Anthony Osso, hoped to work out a deal where his client would admit his involvement in all these murders in exchange for not getting the death penalty. Osso’s plan was to have Reece plead guilty and be sentenced in the Texas cases before he was sent to Oklahoma to face a capital murder trial. Texas agreed to not seek the death penalty; Oklahoma prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will seek the death penalty.

“They did not want to make that decision, understandably I think, without having them in their custody,” said Petroff.

Johnston’s mother, Kathy Dobry, told Channel 2 Investigates she is pushing for the death penalty.

“He took my daughter’s life and his needs to be taken, too,” Dobry said during an interview in June.

However, Oklahoma not making a decision on the death penalty left the Texas cases at a standstill.

“We'll make any charging decisions after he is sent back to Oklahoma to answer for those charges,” said Petroff.

This means it could be several more months before Reece faces charges in the Texas murders.

“Has he cooperated with going into specifics?” asked Channel 2 investigator Robert Arnold.

“Certainly to a degree he and his attorney have been cooperative in speaking with law enforcement; again there are degrees of cooperation,” said Petroff.

Petroff said Reece was being held on an “interstate detainer.” Under an agreement with Oklahoma, prosecutors said would they would take the case to trial within 120 days from the time Reece is back in their custody. Petroff said Oklahoma prosecutors could have up to 180 days to try Reece if he does not fight his transfer.

Osso did not have an immediate answer as to whether his client would fight his transfer to Oklahoma.

This sequence of events sets up the possibility of Reece being bounced between the two states. Reece has been in a Texas prison since 1998, when he was convicted of kidnapping Sandra Sapaugh from Webster. State records show Reece’s “projected release date” for that charge is not until October of 2057.

This means after Reece is tried in Oklahoma he would be sent back to Texas to finish his prison sentence for Sapaugh’s kidnapping, then sent back to Oklahoma to serve whatever sentence he may receive in the Johnston case. On top of this would be whatever punishment Reece may receive in the Smither, Cain and Cox cases.

Reece was released to the temporary custody of Galveston County officials in February to aid in the search for Cain's and Cox’s remains.