Convicting A Serial Killer, Part 1


Thursday, August 19th 2021, 9:21 am
By: Lisa Monahan


UPDATE: William Reece was sentenced to death Thursday, August 19th.

An Oklahoma County district judge is expected to hand down a death sentence to admitted serial killer William Lewis Reece Aug. 19.

A jury found Reece, 61, guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the 1997 killing of 19-year-old Tiffany Johnston.

The teen, who had vanished from the Sunshine Car Wash in Bethany, Oklahoma, was raped and strangled.

Johnston, 20-year-old Kelli Cox of Denton, TX, 17-year-old Jessica Cain of Texas City, TX and 12-year-old Laura Smither of Friendswood, TX, vanished soon after Reece was released from an Oklahoma prison for previous rape and kidnapping convictions.

All four were abducted and killed during a four-month period in 1997, but it took nearly 20 years to gather the evidence needed to prosecute Reece.

In 2015, investigators used DNA to link Reece to Johnston's murder.

After Oklahoma County prosecutors filed charges against him, Reece started confessing in an attempt to make a deal.

In a series of 2016 interviews with Texas Rangers, he gave vivid descriptions of the killings in Oklahoma and Texas.

Reece also helped lead investigators to the bodies. He was a bulldozer operator at the time of the killings and put his skill to morbid use along a stretch of Texas Interstate 45.

The 50-mile desolate area between Houston and Galveston became known as the 'Texas Killing Fields' after a number of women mysteriously vanished or were found buried there throughout the years.

Reece admitted he'd buried two of his victims -- Cain and Cox -- in the area. Investigators were able to recover their bodies.

Oklahoma prosecutors refused to make a deal with the admitted killer.

Instead, the state announced plans to seek the death penalty and the confessions to all four murders would be used as evidence against him.

" I started out with my hands. I started squeezing her around the throat," Reece told investigators. "She was still fighting me when I grabbed that rope... I just wrapped it around her neck and pulled real tight."

He spoke slowly and matter-of-factly about each of the attacks.

In Johnston's case, Reece described her murder as a spontaneous outburst.

He explained he had pulled over to clean up his truck and horse trailer after an oil filter came loose.

"I pulled in there, put the quarters in, and I was spraying it to clean out from underneath my truck," Reece said." I started on the trailer part and uh, that's when that girl yelled hey, I sprayed her."

Reece claimed he started cussing at her but eventually snapped.

He said he grabbed Johnston and threw her in the tack-room of his horse trailer.

No one at the car wash noticed the struggle that ensued,

"We was[sic] fighting and I unsnapped her overalls... I don’t know why, I can't explain it. It just happened," Reece admitted raping Johnston for a couple of minutes.

He told investigators Johnston hit him in the head with a horseshoe.

"Pissed me off," Reece said he began choking her with his hands and then with a rope used to lead horses.

He said he dumped her body in tall grass off a dirt road near Mustang, Oklahoma. Johnston's nude body was discovered the next day.

When pressed by investigators, Reece said he had never seen Johnston before their run-in at the car wash.

Investigators said Reece knew Johnston's mother, Kathy Dobry of Anadarko.

Reece's mother did ironing for the family -- and even pressed clothes for Johnston's funeral.

"I would like to tell him what I really thought of him, but it wouldn’t be too nice," Dobry said. "I would tell him he is a big liar."

Although Reece claimed he confessed to give Dobry and the other victims' families closure, Dobry believes he lied in all of the confessions -- painting himself as the victim to random, unfortunate encounters.

While Reece’s motivation may be in question, he's been consistent on why he killed the women.

In each case, saying it was to avoid going back to prison.

Admitting as much is what ultimately sealed his fate.

The jurors not only want him to spend the rest of his life in prison, they want him under lock and key on Oklahoma's death row.

In the second part of Convicting A Serial Killer, jurors open up about that decision. Watch it Thursday on News 9 at 10 p.m.