Update: Serial Killer Found Guilty of 1997 Murder

Wess Haubrich

Tiffany JohnstonThe Oklahoman

William Reece has been found guilty of the 1997 kidnapping and murder of Tiffany Johnston.

You may recall prior coverage here and here on News Break by the author about William Reece, an alleged serial killer who operated in Oklahoma and Texas.

On May 28, Reece was found guilty by an Oklahoma jury of the 1997 murder and sexual assault of 19-year-old newlywed Tiffany Johnston. Reece was first tied to the case through DNA though he later confessed to kidnapping Johnston from a Bethany, Oklahoma car wash.

The DNA that secured Reece’s conviction was harvested from existing physical evidence in new and interesting ways. Still, the fact that he was caught at all owed much to the case of Joseph James DeAngelo – “The Golden State Killer”. You may remember in 2018 when the former police officer-turned serial killer was arrested after a decades-long manhunt. His arrest and eventual guilty plea in 2020 was based on advances in DNA science that also laid the foundation for William Reece’s conviction now.

As Reece faces the death penalty, from here, the case goes to the penalty phase, which happens in two parts in Oklahoma. First, jurors will return to hear arguments of aggravating factors/circumstances or factors or circumstances that increase the severity or culpability of a criminal act.

Aggravating factors are usually set down in state law, in Oklahoma the ones relevant to this case might include the murder being “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel”, and “the existence of a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society”.

Jurors will also hear mitigating circumstances from Reece’s defense team. These are the opposite of aggravating factors/circumstances in that they lessen the severity/culpability of the offense. They usually include things like mental disturbance or retardation, insanity, and the like. It is the author’s opinion that one would be hard pressed to find many of these in this case. However, we shall see what Reece’s defense comes up with and update you accordingly.

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Former editor, now dogged-maverick journalist and researcher covering the crime beat. I examine the weird, absurd, and downright infamous in American crime both here and at Real Monsters podcast. Contact: wess@realmonsters.live


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