Remains identified as those of Texas teen missing since 1997

Jessica Cain

HOUSTON (AP) — Human remains found in a Houston pasture are those of a 17-year-old girl who disappeared in 1997, the Harris County medical examiner’s office said Friday.

The remains of Jessica Cain, who disappeared after dining with friends, were identified through DNA analysis, said Audrey Carter, an investigator with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

A convicted kidnapper who might be linked to other violent crimes pointed investigators to the location of the remains. Investigators dug for more than three weeks in a rural pasture on the edge of Houston before finding the remains on March 18.

William Reece, who is serving a 60-year sentence for a 1997 kidnapping, assisted authorities in the search. Reece, 56, also recently led authorities to remains identified as those of 20-year-old college student Kelli Cox, who had been missing from Denton in North Texas since 1997.

Flowers hang on a fence surrounding an area where authorities continue to search for human remains near Houston, Friday, March 4, 2016. A convicted kidnapper who may be linked to other violent crimes has been temporarily released from prison to help authorities who are digging for the body of a teenager who disappeared two decades ago. William Reece's attorney says his client is helping authorities locate the body of 17-year-old Jessica Cain, one of multiple people Reece may have victimized in 1997. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Flowers hang on a fence surrounding an area where authorities continue to search for human remains near Houston, Friday, March 4, 2016. A convicted kidnapper who may be linked to other violent crimes has been temporarily released from prison to help authorities who are digging for the body of a teenager who disappeared two decades ago. William Reece’s attorney says his client is helping authorities locate the body of 17-year-old Jessica Cain, one of multiple people Reece may have victimized in 1997. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Reece’s attorney, Anthony Osso, has said his client ultimately hopes to avoid the death penalty by cooperating with authorities.

Reece faces first-degree murder and kidnapping charges in Oklahoma for the slaying of 19-year-old Tiffany Johnston, who was abducted from a car wash northwest of Oklahoma City in 1997. He was also previously named the prime suspect in the April 1997 abduction and killing of a 12-year-old girl in Friendswood near Houston but has not been charged.

Cain, from La Marque, 50 miles south of Houston, had been missing since her abandoned car was found on Interstate 45 near the Village of Tiki Island, a Bayfront community across from Galveston Island.

“While this news brings confirmation, it also brings new sorrow to Jessica’s family, friends and those in law enforcement who have mourned her loss,” Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady said in a statement.

Charges will be forthcoming once the investigation is completed, Roady said.

Reece was sent to prison in 1998 for the May 1997 Houston-area abduction of Sandra Sapaugh, who told authorities Reece forced her at knifepoint into his truck after first feigning to help her with a flat tire. Sapaugh escaped after jumping from the truck.

Reece had been temporarily released from state prison into local custody to help with the searches for both Cain and Cox.

Reece has not spoken to law enforcement about any other cold cases, though Osso said he expected agencies with similar cases might want to approach Reece eventually.

 

Kelli Cox
Kelli Cox

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