Human remains discovered last month in southeast Houston, Texas, have been confirmed by Harris County medical examiners to belong to a 17-year-old girl who went missing 19 years ago. Jessica Cain disappeared without a trace in 1997 after attending a party with friends.
After digging for nearly a month in a rural pasture, investigators found the remains on March 18. Using DNA tests, forensic experts were able to positively identify her on Friday.
“We are relieved at the news that Jessica has been found,” Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady said. “But 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.”
Investigators were able to locate her remains based on information provided by a prison inmate named William Reece. Initially, he was suspected of kidnapping and murdering the teen, but was never charged. However, this may change now that Cain’s remains have been identified.
Earlier this month, investigators found the remains of another missing woman, Kelli Cox, after Reece provided directions to the burial site. The 20-year-old college student disappeared in July 1997.
On the day she vanished, Cox was touring the Denton County jail. Afterwards, she contacted her boyfriend and told him she was locked out of her car, which was parked nearby. Police were called to the scene, but the young woman was nowhere to be found.
“You get up every single day and think is today the day that she will call or ring the doorbell or is today the day we will get answers from the police,” Cox’s mother, Jan Bynum told Dallas News in March.
The Center for Human Identification and Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology at the University of Texas in cooperation with the Galveston County medical examiner’s office were able to identify Cox through dental records.
Reece is currently charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping related to the 1997 disappearance of Tiffany Johnston of Bethany, Oklahoma. She was kidnapped from a car wash and later killed. To avoid the death penalty, Reece’s attorney made a deal with the state to provide information on the Cain and Cox cases.
“These cases, without his cooperation, would have never been solved,” said Reece’s lawyer, Anthony Osso.
Apparently, the suspected serial murderer was busy in 1997. Reece is thought to be involved in yet another 1997 abduction and murder, but was never officially charged.
After leaving her Friendswood home, 12-year-old Laura Smither went missing. Her lifeless body was found several days later.
Reece had moved from Oklahoma to Houston in 1996 and within months the young women began to disappear.
In 1998, Reece went to prison for the May 1997 abduction of Houston-resident Sandra Sapaugh. At trial, she testified that Reece forced her into his truck after claiming he had a flat tire. She managed to escape by jumping from the vehicle.
The convicted kidnapper is currently serving a 60-year sentence for sexual assault of another young woman from Oklahoma. Reece was temporarily let out of jail to help with the searches for both Cain and Cox.
Several law enforcement agencies were involved in the search for Jessica Cain’s remains. The Texas Rangers, the FBI, the La Marque Police Department, the Friendswood Police Department, the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office all participated. Additionally, Texas Equusearch and the Lighthouse Charity Team provided numerous volunteers and resources to assist.
With the discovery of Jessica Cain’s remains, her family can finally reach closure since her 1997 disappearance. William Reece, now 56-years-old, has not been forthcoming about any other cold cases, but authorities suspect he has information about similar files.
[Photo by AP Photo/David J. Phillip]