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Family, friends remember life of Laura Smither in Friendswood

FRIENDSWOOD, Texas – Friends and family of Laura Smither gathered at a park in Friendswood to release butterflies in memory of the girl who died when she was 12 years old.

Twenty years ago Monday, she went for a run near her home in Friendswood. She was never seen again. 

Laura’s mother, Gay Smither said, "Our family was embraced by this community and by the angels who walk among us."

In less than three weeks, the Smither family said, about 6,000 people stopped to help look for her. Laura Smither's remains were discovered 17 days later in Pasadena. She would have now been 32 years old.

"The triangle of trust that arose in Friendswood set the standard for searching for a missing child. You did that. This community did that," Gay Smither said.

As a crime victim’s advocate said, this is one case that is remembered for the victim and not for the offender.

William Reece was indicted for kidnapping and killing Smither. He sat in jail awaiting trial for a similar case in Oklahoma.

Smither’s disappearance gave life to the Laura Recovery Center.

"Because of that, there is now a blueprint for how a family and how a community should respond when a child goes missing," Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady said,

Two decades later, a community that promised it would never forget kept its promise. The little girl who was a Girl Scout, scuba diver and dancer danced on and took flight on the wings of butterflies. 

Gay Smither told the crowd, "We simply say 'thank you.'"