Jessica Cain was 17 when she disappeared after an outing with friends in 1997, and now authorities believe they have found the remains of the long-missing teen in a horse pasture near Houston.
After weeks of searching, authorities uncovered bones believed to be Cain’s. Now, a homicide investigation is reportedly starting as authorities try to determine how Cain came to rest in a field near Interstate 45 South.
Police with backhoes and bulldozers uncovered bones in the field after William Lewis Reece, a prisoner convicted of a series of similar attacks in the 1990s, led them to that point.
Though the remains are believed to belong to Jessica Cain, police have yet to make a formal identification.
“Right now, we have no clue who this person is,” Richard Martinez, a detective with the Houston Police Department’s homicide division, told the Houston Chronicle. “If it is not Jessica Cain, we have to find out who it is.”
There is still much work to be done before the search is complete, Martinez added.
“There’s enough there to know that it’s a body,” he said. “So, they still have to keep digging and meticulously get every bone that we can to reconstruct the body.”
The search could be complicated by other potential crimes committed by Reese. Houston police said they will also be searching in another site where one of his potential victims may have been buried.
Cain’s disappearance had confounded police for nearly 20 years. She was last seen in the early morning hours of August 17, 1997, where she visited a restaurant with friends. After leaving, one of Jessica’s friends saw her parked near the shoulder of Interstate 45 and Jessica walking toward a red Isuzu Amigo. That was the last she was ever seen.
As The Charley Project noted, there were few clues as to what happened to Cain.
“Jessica’s truck was discovered locked and abandoned near the location her friend last saw her on Interstate 45 southbound at 5:00 a.m. that same day. Her wallet was on the driver’s seat of the vehicle but her keys were missing. There was no sign of Jessica at the scene and no damage to the truck, but the vehicle’s camper appeared to have been tampered with.”
Reese, who is serving a 60-year prison sentence for a 1998 kidnapping, is considered the primary suspect. While there appears to be little question among police of who killed Jessica Cain, a homicide investigation could shed some light on how she died.
Reese may have had access to equipment that made it nearly impossible to find Jessica Cain for nearly two decades. He was a former bulldozer operator and convicted of stealing two bulldozers in the 1990s, the New York Daily News reported. Police said they believe Cain’s killer may have buried her as deep as six feet underground.
Police had been digging in the field for weeks before discovering the remains on Friday.
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences has been called to the scene and is now working on identification.
“Right now, they’re in the process of recovering those remains,” Martinez said. “There is enough there to know that it’s a body.”
But there have been difficulties in the search for Jessica Cain, including thunderstorms that hampered search efforts.
“If it rains too hard and fills up with water, you have to let it subside and then start over,” Martinez said.
Houston police have not said how long it would take before the remains could be positively identified as Jessica Cain, and it is not clear when formal murder charges could be leveled.
[Image via Houston Police/Handout]