The generally peaceful city of Friendswood, Texas, witnessed a shocking incident when 12-year-old Laura Smither went missing on April 3, 1997. Eventually, about seventeen days after her disappearance, Laura’s body was recovered near a retention pond about 12 miles away from her home in the city of Pasadena. Netflix’s ‘The Texas Killing Fields’ mentions Laura’s murder and even talks about the investigation that eventually led straight to a terrifying serial killer. Let’s delve into the details and find out who killed Laura, shall we?
How Did Laura Smither Die?
Laura Smither is remembered as a lively and cheerful young girl who lit up any room she walked into. People who knew her stated that apart from being a brilliant student, she was very into ballet, girl scouts, and scuba diving. Being a 12-year-old, she was adored by her parents and pretty popular in her school and community. Besides, Laura even had big aspirations for the future, but they were dashed to the ground by the horrific crime.
Sources mention that Laura woke up in a cheerful mood on April 3, 1997, and was excited to find pancakes for breakfast. However, she took permission from her mother before going out on a short pre-breakfast jog. Usually, Laura would jog through the neighborhood and return home within half an hour at most. Hence, when the 12-year-old failed to return within an hour, her concerned parents gathered a few neighbors and combed through a few areas she might have gone to. Yet, hours passed, and with no news about Laura or her whereabouts, her loved ones were forced to report her missing to the police.
Once law enforcement officials took over the case, they treated it as a priority and used every facility available. Authorities formed search teams along with local volunteers and left no stone unturned in the search. They even interviewed several of Laura’s acquaintances, but none of her friends knew where the 12-year-old might have gone. Meanwhile, with each passing day, the hope for Laura’s safe return began dwindling, and her family started fearing the worst. Tragically, their fears were confirmed when Laura’s body was located about 12 miles away from her home beside a retention pond in Pasadena, Texas. When authorities got to examine the victim’s body, they noticed that she was decapitated and determined that Laura had been dead for several days before being discovered.
Who Killed Laura Smither?
The initial investigation into Laura Smither’s murder was highly challenging as the police did not have any leads or suspects to work with. They interviewed several of Laura’s acquaintances, talked to her parents, and even canvassed the area where the body was located, but to no avail. As Laura was generally known to be a cheerful girl, people had no idea why anyone would want to hurt her in such a gruesome manner. Thus, with most clues leading to a dead end, investigators found themselves back at square one.
Although still unnoticed by investigators, several girls and women had been going missing from the Texas area since the early 1980s. However, about a month after Laura’s murder, 19-year-old Sandra Sapaugh became the victim of an attempted kidnapping when she was abducted at knifepoint from Webster, Texas. Still, She somehow managed to jump out of her abductor’s vehicle and helped the police identify William Reece as the perpetrator. Hence, reports claim that about a year after Laura met her end, William was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the kidnapping attempt. Interestingly, the investigation into William did not stop there, as the police suspected him of the murders of Laura Smither, as well as Jessica Cain and Kelli Cox, who had both disappeared from the same area in 1997. Additionally, he was also suspected of the 1997 murder of Bethany, Oklahoma, resident Tiffany Johnston.
Unfortunately, with no other leads or information, the case sat without any progress up until 2015. In 2015, investigators in Oklahoma used advanced DNA tracing methods to link William with Tiffany Johnston’s murder. Since the police had forensic evidence that could lead to a death sentence, William decided to come clean in 2021 and even confessed to killing Jessica and Kelli. He also led the police to their remains, and investigators noticed that the murders were very similar to that of Laura Smither.
That was when William had another change of heart, making him plead guilty to Laura’s murder. Thus, with a proper confession on their hands, William was convicted of three counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2021. At present, William remains incarcerated at the Allan B. Polunsky Unit in West Livingston, Texas, and prison records show that he will be eligible for parole in 2047. However, reports claim that the convict has been sentenced to death for the murder of Tiffany Johnston and will be sent to Oklahoma’s death row after release.
Read More: Where is Laura’s Mother Gay Smither Now?