It would be nearly two decades later before those victims' families knew who killed them and, in two of the cases, where he dumped their bodies.
One of those families finally got justice. A jury in Oklahoma City convicted Reece of killing 19-year-old Tiffany Johnston in July of 1997 after abducting her from a car wash.
On June 2, the jury sentenced Reece to death.
"This was for Tiff," Kathy Dobry, the victim's mother, told KWTV. "Even though it helped families in Texas, but it was for Tiffany after 24 years and 10 months."
Tiffany's husband read a letter in court blaming Reece because they'd never have kids, grow old or enjoy a long life together.
Testimony showed Reece sexually assaulted Tiffany in a horse trailer and then strangled her. The young newlywed’s partially nude body was found the next day.
But she wasn’t his first victim.
After Reece got out of prison for kidnapping and rape in 1996, the Oklahoma native moved to Houston and started hunting. He liked pretty girls with long, brown hair. His first known victim was a 12-year-old in Friendswood.
Laura went for a jog in her neighborhood in April of 1997 and never came home.
Dozens of people joined the search for Laura and her disappearance was the lead story on the news that night – and for many night’s to come.
Laura’s body was eventually found in Pasadena.
“In 1997, when Laura went missing, we prayed so hard for her to be brought back to our dinner table. That didn’t happen the way we wanted,” Gay Smither said after Reece confessed in 2016. “Our prayers were not answered the way we wanted. But our prayers were answered; Laura was found."
The family of Jessica Cain would wait 19 years for their answers
Jessica was a 17-year-old La Marque high school student who vanished on a steamy night in August of 1997.
Jessica was headed home after attending a theater cast party with friends. She almost made it. Her car was later found abandoned on the side of I-45, not far from Tiki Island. There was no sign of Jessica.
"It wasn't a car wreck, it wasn't an accident. This was something they did to her, something horrific, evil thing that happened," said Danni Previte, a childhood friend.
Like Tiffany, Kelli Cox was killed in July of 1997 as Reece bounced back and forth between Oklahoma and Texas.
The 20-year-old University of North Texas student disappeared after touring a Denton jail with some classmates. She was last seen at a gas station across the street.
Kelli had a toddler at home so her mother always knew something bad must have happened. She said her daughter would never leave her child.
Confessions of a killer
No one knew what happened to Laura, Jessica or Kelli – no one except William Reece.
He eventually went back to prison in Texas for kidnapping a 19-year-old.
Years later, DNA linked Reece to Tiffany’s death and he was charged with capital murder. That's when Reece started talking.
The serial killer calmly confessed that he’d also killed three girls in Texas and only he knew where to find their bodies.
In exchange for the information, he wanted a guarantee that he wouldn’t get the death penalty in Texas.
Victims finally found
Jessica’s body was found first buried in a field on East Orem in Houston.
“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," Galveston County DA Jack Roady said.
The body of Kelli Cox was found in Brazoria County three weeks later. It had been nearly two decades since she vanished. The toddler Kelli left behind was now nearly the same age she was when she disappeared.
“When Jessica Cain and Kelli Cox were found, there’s no words to describe what that meant to Bob and I, because we realized early on that as bad as our outcome was, those families walked a much, much harder road than we were walking,” Gay Smither said.
After Reece is sentenced for killing Tiffany, he’ll be brought back to Texas to be tried for the deaths of Laura, Jessica and Kelli.
“Without the work by everyone involved, what happened to Laura Smither, Kelli Cox and Jessica Cain would have forever remained a mystery. Now we have answers,” Roady said.
Reece has already spent more than half his life in prison for kidnapping and sexual assault. Now, he’ll die behind bars.
Gay Smither said she forgives him for what he’s done, and she hopes to meet with him in person one day to tell him that and discuss her faith.
She may not get the chance. While Reece made deals to avoid the death chamber in Texas, the death penalty is still on the table in Oklahoma.