HOUSTON — Late Thursday night, after a long day of travel, the parents of Laura Smither landed at Hobby Airport in Houston. They had traveled to Oklahoma to watch the man who confessed to killing their daughter in 1997 be sentenced.
William Reece got the death penalty for the murder of Tiffany Johnston, a separate case in Oklahoma City.
“I wouldn’t say I was hoping for it, but it is justice,” said Gay Smither, Laura Smither’s mother. “He is someone who has worked the system.”
Gay Smither, still wearing a gold necklace engraved with Laura Smither’s face around her neck, said she attended the trial in Oklahoma to represent her daughter.
“Just had to see it through, just had to see it through,” Gay Smither said. “I’m glad we went. I’m glad Bob (Laura Smither's father) was able to come this time.
Their daughter was just 12 years old when she went missing in Friendswood. Her body was found two weeks later in a pond. Smither said she hopes their presence in Oklahoma would have an impact on Reece.
“I would hope it would spark his conscience,” Gay Smither said.
However, Gay Smither said the two opportunities Reece had in the courtroom to speak, he didn’t take.
“That was very disheartening that a human being could be so broken that they wouldn’t say anything," she said.
Reece was always a suspect in Laura Smither’s case, but he wasn’t charged until 2016. That’s when Reece, facing charges in Oklahoma, led investigators to the bodies of Jessica Cain, 17, and Kelli Ann Cox, 20, in the Houston area.
“This is justice. He’s going to go to death row and be in a cell for the first time in a long time and maybe in that isolation he will start to think about his life and meeting his maker,” Gay Smither said.
Over the years, the Smithers launched the Laura Recovery Center and have been advocates for other families of missing children. They’ve worked hard to make sure what happened to Laura doesn’t happen again.
Reece is expected to be brought back to Texas for another trial. Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady confirmed to KHOU 11 that is still the plan. But he said it’s a complicated case and it will take time. Reece first has the right to appeal in Oklahoma.
Laura’s mom says she wants his cases in Galveston County to stay active.
“You never know what’s going to happen. I want our cases to be ready to be the backup. I don’t want this man to ever have the possibility of getting out,” Gay Smither said.