Directed by a convict+ed kidnapper, authorities will start digging at a location in Brazoria County in coastal Texas for the remains of a missing University of North Texas honor student, according to Houston area news outlets and authorities.
A Denton investigator was at the scene Monday, but Denton police declined to make any additional comments, only saying that convict William Reece was a “person of interest” in the 1997 disappearance of Kelli Cox.
“We’ve had brief talks with him,” Denton police spokesman Shane Kizer said Monday.
Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. William Kennard said Monday that authorities had not started digging, and he didn’t know when they would begin.
Reece also is a suspect in several other cases. The Houston man has been in prison since 1998, but he has been accompanying authorities in recent days to searches in the Houston area for missing young victims, according to Houston area news outlets.
I’m hovering near the phone every day.
Jan Bynum, mother of Kelli Cox
Jan Bynum of Farmers Branch, Cox’s mother, said Monday that she has not been notified that authorities are searching specifically for her missing daughter.
“Denton police have been in contact with Texas Rangers about the search,” Bynum said Monday. “I’m hovering near the phone every day.”
Reece, 56, guided authorities to a pasture in southeast Houston on March 18. Medical examiners are working to identify the skeletal remains that were found.
KHOU-TV has reported that Reece is now leading authorities to a location in Brazoria County, 30 miles away. Bynum said one complication for the searchers is that the neighborhoods in Brazoria County have changed in the 18 years her daughter has been missing.
In 1997, when Cox, 20, disappeared, Reece had worked as a truck driver and bulldozer operater in the Houston area. She disappeared July 15 of that year after taking a tour of the Denton Jail with her UNT criminology class. She called her boyfriend about noon, and when he arrived to meet her he found only her car.
She had a 19-month-old daughter.
Cox has been legally declared presumed dead, her mother has said.
Reece also is a suspect in the disappearance of 17-year-old Jessica Cain of La Marque, who went missing in August 1997, and in the murder that same year of Laura Smither, 12, of Friendswood.
Smither disappeared while jogging, and her body was found a month later in Pasadena, according to multiple news outlets in Houston.
Citing unnamed sources, The Houston Chronicle reported earlier this month that police were possibly searching for Cain’s remains.
Several people reported seeing Reece in shackles, handcuffs and leg irons at the excavation site last week. He had been transferred from the Ellis prison unit to the Galveston County Jail on a bench warrant, news outlets reported.
Reece was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 1998 for an aggravated kidnapping in Harris County, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records. While in prison, he also was sentenced to three years for theft in Brazoria County.
He was charged in September with the murder and kidnapping in Oklahoma of 19-year-old Tiffany Johnston, who was abducted on July 26, 1997, from a carwash in Bethany, Okla., The Daily Oklahoman reported. He was charged in that case after DNA evidence linked him to the crimes.
Bynum said she remembered hearing Reece’s name early in the investigation.
“I would like there to be some answers,” Bynum said. “But at the same time, I can’t get my hopes too high.”
This report contains material from The Associated Press.