After nearly two decades of not knowing, Jessica Cain's family finally has answers.
The remains found in a southeast Houston field last month were positively identified as Cain's Friday, the Harris County medical examiner confirmed.
The La Marque teen was 17 years old when she vanished in 1997. She had attended a theater cast party with friends and her car was found abandoned on I-45 near Tiki Island. There was no sign of Jessica.
It’s a face that was never forgotten.
"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 who spoke at a vigil in March.
Forensic experts used DNA to identify her.
"It's closure. At least now they know what happened," said a relative who didn't want to be identified.
“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. We ask that everyone be respectful of her family and friends’ need for privacy during this time of grieving.”
Investigators zeroed in on the field on East Orem Dr. thanks to a tip from an inmate named William Reece. He was a person of interest in Cain's disappearance, but he was never charged.
Reece also told them about another burial site in Brazoria County. Last week, searchers found the remains of Kelli Cox. She was a young mother who disappeared from Denton in 1997.
Reece was always the prime suspect in the 1997 murder of 12-year-old Laura Smither from Friendswood. She was abducted while jogging in her neighborhood. Her body was found several days later in Pasadena.
While Reece hasn't been charged in any of the Texas cases yet, he was recently charged with the 1997 murder of Tiffany Johnston from Bethany, Oklahoma. She was abducted from a car wash and killed. Reece's attorney Anthony Osso said he decided to cooperate in the Cain and Cox cases to avoid the death penalty for the Johnston case.
“These cases without his cooperation would have never been solved,” Osso said.
Reece is currently serving a life sentence for sexual assault of another young Oklahoma woman.
The suspected serial killer moved to Houston in 1996 after he was released from prison on another sexual assault case. The young women began to disappear a few months later.
The agencies involved in the Cain search included the Texas Rangers, the FBI, the La Marque Police Department, the Friendswood Police Department, the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office and the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office. Both Texas Equusearch and the Lighthouse Charity Team devoted a large number of volunteer hours and resources to assist the search.