After 24 years, 4 murders and one kidnapping, William Reece is sentenced to death

William Reece found guilt of murder, convicted by Oklahoma jury

OKLAHOMA – An Oklahoma jury sentenced accused serial killer, William Lewis Reece, to death for the 1997 murder of Tiffany Johnston. The jury deliberated for one hour and 45 minutes before reaching their decision.

In addition to Johnston’s murder, Reece is also charged with the Texas murders of Laura Smither, Jessica Cain and Kelli Ann Cox. All four murders took place in 1997, but it took nearly 20 years to gather the evidence needed to charge Reece.

Several hours of Reece’s confession to a Texas Ranger were played for the jury. Those recordings provided details about all the girls’ murders. Laura Smither’s mother, Gay Smither, traveled to Oklahoma for the trial.

“I heard a lot of details I was not expecting, but I’m glad to know them now.,” she said. “In many ways it was a trial for Tiffany, but it was a trial for all the Texas girls as well and I’m really glad I was here for it.”

Reece was convicted in 1998 of kidnapping Sandra Sapaugh in Webster and sentenced to 60 years in prison. In 2015, Oklahoma officials used DNA to link Reece to Johnston’s body and a calling card put him the area where she disappeared. After he was charged in Oklahoma, Reece looked to cut a deal and started talking about the Texas murders. Laura Smither was found a few weeks after she disappeared from her Friendswood neighborhood, but Cain’s and Cox’s bodies were not found until 2016.

Cain disappeared while driving to her Tiki Island home in Galveston County and Reece led detectives to her body in a field in southeast Houston. Cox disappeared from Denton and Reece led detectives to her body in Brazoria County. Reece was charged with Smither and Cain’s murders in Galveston County and Cox’s murder in Brazoria County.

“I’m grateful for the jury’s verdict and that justice has been done,” said Galveston District Attorney Jack Roady.

Roady said he’ll make a decision whether to proceed with Smither’s and Cain’s murder cases after the Oklahoma proceedings are finished and he’s had a chance to discuss the matter with the families.

“We are very pleased with the verdict in Oklahoma,” said Brazoria County District Attorney, Tom Selleck.

Selleck said his office will decide how to proceed with Cox’s case after monitoring the appeal process in Oklahoma and consulting with her family.

“If we don’t have our day in court in Galveston, we can live with it because he’s at least held accountable here,” said Gay Smither. “The most important thing is we know now for sure there is absolutely no way this man will ever get out. There was always that outside chance he would earn parole in the Sandra Sapaugh case, but now we know for sure he will forever be in jail, he will die in jail.”

Smither added that Oklahoma law allowing evidence of the other murders to be presented in such detail in Tiffany’s case made her feel like Laura also got her day in court.

“We always said until we had our day in court, that would be the final, that the man who was responsible was held accountable, for me that really happened here,” she said. “In many ways all the girls Reece was held accountable for in the way the evidence was presented, all the girls were represented at every level of this trial. It was quite extraordinary.”

Reece still has not completed his sentence for Sapaugh’s kidnapping, but officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said they have no plans to bring him back to Texas given that he’s received a death sentence in Oklahoma.

Prior to the murders and kidnapping, Reece served time in an Oklahoma prison for rape.

Accused serial killer found guilty of murder

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”