Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported Tiffany Johnston was a University of North Texas student. Only Kelli Cox was a UNT student.
A Texas inmate sentenced to death last week by an Oklahoma jury for the murder of an Oklahoma woman in 1997 still faces charges in the death of a University of North Texas student.
In a trial that lasted nearly three weeks, 61-year-old William Reece was convicted and sentenced to death in the murder of 19-year-old Tiffany Johnston in 1997. Reece raped and killed Johnston in Bethany, Oklahoma, at a car wash on July 26, 1997, and is accused of killing a UNT student that same year, 20-year-old Kelli Cox.
Although the deaths of both women happened more than two decades ago, DNA evidence first linked Reece to Johnston’s disappearance in 2015.
Reece was charged with murder and helped authorities in 2016 to find two bodies, of Cox and 17-year-old Jessica Cain of Galveston, in Brazoria County. He also is accused of killing Laura Smither, 12, of Friendswood.
“Right now, we are waiting on the formal sentencing in Oklahoma; I believe that will take place Aug. 19,” said Mary Aldous, the first assistant district attorney in Brazoria County. “After the formal sentencing, then we will discuss options with Ms. Cox’s family and make a decision from there where to go.”
Cox went missing on July 15, 1997, near the Denton Police Department building following a class tour of the city jail. She made a call at a nearby payphone to her boyfriend after the tour, saying she couldn’t get back into her car. That was the last time anyone heard from her.
Charges weren’t filed in Denton County in connection with Cox’s death and instead were filed in Brazoria County since that’s where her remains were found.
“He was indicted for murder down there, so we turned over all the case information to assist with that,” Denton police spokesperson Amy Cunningham said in May. “[The detective on the case] said it was decided that because the remains were found in Brazoria County, the case would be better served to be handled there.”
Reece was indicted on a murder charge in Cox’s death in 2017. The case for Cain’s death was filed in Galveston County. Aldous confirmed the last movement on the case in Brazoria County was Reece’s indictment in 2017.