ANGLETON, Texas (AP) — Remains found in a pasture in southeast Texas with the help of a convicted kidnapper are those of a 20-year-old college student who went missing almost two decades ago, authorities said Monday.
Denton police say the remains have been identified through dental records as those of Kelli Cox, who went missing from the North Texas town of Denton in July 1997. She attended the University of North Texas.
Authorities had announced this month that imprisoned, convicted kidnapper William Reece had led them to the remains in Brazoria County. The 56-year-old is already serving a 60-year sentence for kidnapping one woman, led Texas authorities to remains in the search for 17-year-old Jessica Cain, also missing since 1997, has been charged in the slaying of a 19-year-old in 1997 and was a prime suspect in another killing.
A DNA analysis will also be conducted on Cox's remains, said Denton police spokesman Officer Shane Kizer. He added that police are "looking into formal charges in the near future," but are still investigating.
He said that they are hopeful that Reece will continue to cooperate and that investigators will learn more details of what happened to Cox.
"We're just happy that we're finally getting some answers to the family," said Kizer, adding, "Hopefully this starts the healing process for them."
Cox's mother, Jan Bynum, told WFAA-TV that she did find "almost a comfort knowing."
"I'm now certain she hasn't been hurting all these years," she said.
Reece has been temporarily released from state prison into local custody to help with the search, in which he directed investigators to the sites where they found both sets of remains.
Reece faces first-degree murder and kidnapping charges in Oklahoma for the slaying of 19-year-old Tiffany Johnston, who was abducted from a car wash northwest of Oklahoma City in 1997. He was also previously named the prime suspect in the April 1997 abduction and killing of a 12-year-old girl in Friendswood near Houston but has not been charged.
Reece was sent to prison in 1998 for the May 1997 Houston-area abduction of Sandra Sapaugh, who told authorities Reece forced her at knifepoint into his truck after first feigning to help her with a flat tire. Sapaugh escaped after jumping from the truck.
Reece's attorney, Anthony Osso, said Monday that his client ultimately hoped to avoid the death penalty by cooperating with authorities. Reece has not spoken to law enforcement about any other cold cases, though Osso said he expected agencies with similar cases might want to approach Reece eventually.
"The cases can be resolved without him ever getting out of prison, ever being released," he said.
Prosecutors in Texas and Oklahoma did not return messages Monday.