‘He’s not really sorry’: Convicted killer, William Lewis Reece, formally sentenced to death

An Oklahoma judge affirmed a jury’s death sentence for a man accused of a string of murders in 1997.

William Reece, 62, was convicted in June of kidnapping and murdering Tiffany Johnston, 19, in the town of Bethany, Oklahoma.

“There’s an old saying the law, ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ Justice will not be delayed any longer in this case. I sentence you to death,” Oklahoma County judge Susan Stallings said during the hearing.

Johnston’s mother, Kathy Dobry, also spoke during the hearing.

“Tiffany was my shadow, we talked and shared her thoughts about the future, having children and me being a grandparent. William Reece’s actions left me with just my memories,” said Dobry. “William Reece might have taken my baby, but he can’t take my memories.”

Reece is also charged with murdering Laura Smither in Friendswood, Jessica Cain in La Marque and kidnapping Kelli Ann Cox from Denton before murdering her and burying her body in a Brazoria County field. All of these murders were committed in 1997, but it took two decades for Texas Rangers and several law enforcement agencies to gather enough evidence to charge Reece.

Reece has been in prison since 1998. He was also charged with kidnapping Sandra Sapaugh from a parking lot in Webster. Sapaugh escaped by jumping from Reece’s truck and her testimony was crucial in securing a 60-year prison sentence for Reece.

Both Kelli Ann Cox’s and Laura Smither’s families traveled to Oklahoma for today’s hearing.

“I am just thankful he will not ever be out on the streets again, I mean ever,” said Jan Bynum, Cox’s mother.

At the time Cox was kidnapped and murdered she had a 19-month old daughter. Alexis Bynum also attended the hearing and spoke about the pain of growing up not knowing what happened to her mother.

“I remember looking for her,” said Alexis Bynum.

Cox’s body was not found until Reece confessed in 2016 and led detectives to the spot where she was buried.

“Disgusting, he’s disgusting,” Alexis Bynum said. “I mean you could feel the evil enter the room and leave it when he was coming in and out.”

Reece also confessed to Cain’s murder in 2016 and finally led investigators to her remains. Cain’s family declined to comment.

Smither’s body was found a few weeks after she disappeared while jogging near her Friendswood home.

“You would hope for something in a person to say I’m sorry,” said Gay Smither.

The judge did give Reece a chance to speak, but he declined. Gay Smither said that silence told her all she needed to know.

“It confirms that even though we have confessions he’s not really sorry for what he did,” said Smither. “That’s always disheartening to recognize that somebody is so broken that they don’t even know what they did was wrong.”

Reece’s attorneys say they will appeal his sentence. Prosecutors in Galveston and Brazoria counties have not yet decided whether to continue pursuing their cases against Reece.

Smither said she wants prosecutors to keep Laura’s and the other women’s cases active, at least until the appeal process in Oklahoma is finished. While he had not completed his 60-year sentence in Oklahoma, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said they will not seek his return now that he has been sentenced to death.

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

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.”