Almost two decades after she vanished, authorities have identified the human remains recovered last week near Houston to be Kelli Cox, according to CBS DFW. The identification of the University of North Texas student who disappeared from Denton, Texas, in 1997, was confirmed using dental records.
The Dallas Morning News reports that according to Denton Police, the University of North Texas’ Center for Human Identification and Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology and the Galveston County medical examiner’s office worked together to determine the remains belonged to Kelli.
CBS News reports the remains of the 20-year-old university student were discovered in a Brazoria County pasture. The location was chosen for the search because the man suspected of being involved in Kelli’s disappearance, convicted kidnapper William Reece, 56, directed authorities there.
According to ABC 13 News, Reece is a suspect in a number of disappearances of young women around the time Kelli vanished.
Kelli was last seen in July 1997 after “she was unable to get into her parked car after a school field trip to the city jail,” reports CBS DFW. After this failed attempt, she used a payphone at a gas station across the street to call her boyfriend. Kelli then bought a drink and “then vanished without a trace,” according to CBS DFW.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Kelli’s boyfriend arrived at the scene about an hour later and she was gone.
Kelli’s mother, Jan Bynum, told CBS DFW that she tied a yellow ribbon in front of the family’s Farmers Branch home and waits for her daughter “every day.” She added, “Is the doorbell going to ring? Is the phone going to ring?”
Bynum further stated to CBS DFW that the news that her daughter’s remains have been found is both a relief and sad at the same time.
“I know she’s gone. I know she’s in God’s arms. I know she’s not hurting. I know she’s been at rest all these years… But then, I have other things to deal with. I haven’t had to deal with emotions… It was hard. I didn’t think it was going to be so hard… It’s still the finality of it, the absolute finality of it.”
CBS DFW reports that Kelli’s child, who was 19 months at the time of her mother’s disappearance, is now an adult and “struggling with her own grief.”
The Dallas Morning News reports that William Reece told law enforcement he had buried Kelli, and had done the same with missing teenager, Jessica Cain of Galveston, Texas. Remains found in a location about 10 miles southwest of Houston are currently being examined and tested to determine if they belong to Jessica.
Jessica, just 17, was only days from graduating high school and had just performed in a musical gala prior to vanishing. KHOU reports that some of Jessica’s friends had celebrated the performance at a Bennigan’s restaurant near Clear Lake. After the meeting, Jessica got into her pickup truck, drove away, and was never seen again.
According to KHOU, Jessica’s father discovered her pickup truck parked on the shoulder of the Gulf Freeway. The vehicle still contained Jessica’s wallet, but she was nowhere to be found.
William Reece’s attorney, Anthony Osso, told ABC 13 News that his client has a heart condition and now wants “closure for these cases.”
Osso added, “He’s taking responsibility for cases that would have gone unsolved… He’s helping the authorities bring closure for the families and also for the various police agencies to close these files.” According to ABC 13 News, Osso further indicated that Reece is not “talking much” about the circumstances regarding the murders, but “only where the bodies are buried.”
CBS News reports that Reece is serving 60 years in prison for the abduction of one woman and faces murder and kidnapping charges in Oklahoma for the 1997 killing of Tiffany Johnson, 19, who was taken from a car wash near Oklahoma City. The report notes that Reece has not yet been charged in the disappearances of Jessica or Kelli.
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