North Texas Daily

Authorities search for Kelli Cox

Authorities search for Kelli Cox

March 27
23:07 2016

Evan McAlister | Staff Writer



Courtesy | Project Jason

Police are working an area about 30 miles away from a field in southeast Houston where investigators found the remains of two bodies March 18 in the search of two women who went missing in 1997.

Kelli Cox, a psychology senior at UNT, disappeared July 15, 1997, after a field trip to the Denton police station.

Denton police spokesman Shane Kizer said detectives found evidence pointing toward Oklahoma truck driver William Reece. Reece was convicted in 1998 of kidnapping a woman is Harris County on May 16, 1997, just two months before Cox disappeared. Investigators learned Reece had been traveling on Interstate 35 near Denton about the time Cox went missing, the police said.

Last month, Reece suggested to authorities that Cox’s and Cain’s bodies were buried in a horse pasture on the southeast side of Houston.

Until now, there have been few leads in these cases in the 20 years since they were last seen alive.

Missing person

July 15, 1997 was a Tuesday and Kelli Cox had class. She left her family’s home in Farmers Branch, dropped off her daughter, Alexis, at the babysitter and drove to Denton to meet her criminology class at the police station to tour the jail. The tour ended around noon. At this time, she discovered her key wouldn’t unlock her car door and she called for help.

Earlier that day, after securing her personal items in her 1989 Nissan 240-SX, Kelli Cox locked her car, checked the spare key to make sure it worked and then placed it under the fender to be able to get back in after her class activities.

Later, when the spare key failed to unlock her car, Cox went back into the police department to call her boyfriend, Lawrence Harris. The staff inside the department told Cox it wasn’t possible to make a toll-free call there, so she walked to the Conoco gas station down the street that had a pay phone. She called her boyfriend in Farmers Branch and he made the 30-minute trip to help Cox. That was the last time they talked.

When Harris arrived at the police station, Cox was nowhere in sight and her car was still sitting the parking lot with her stuff securely locked inside.

There were no witnesses and nothing to support Cox had run away, according to reports.

Cox’s mother, Jan Bynum, said she didn’t know what she would do if anything happened to her only child.

“When Alexis was born, Kelli looked at me and said, ‘Mom this is the happiest day of my entire life,’” Bynum said. “Kelli would not have just walked away. I know she wouldn’t have. She wouldn’t have left Alexis behind.”

Luke Gohlke was working that day at his family’s construction business, Gene Gohlke Building Products,  next to the Conoco station where Cox had stopped to call.

“Someone had to have seen something, that’s what blows my mind,” Gohlke said. “If anything, it was busier back then than it is now, and it’s still busy now.”

The investigation became dormant without witnesses and physical evidence. Years came and went, and the likelihood of solving Cox’s case seemed less and less likely.

Cox’s daughter is now a student at UNT and was unavailable for comment.

“If she is gone, then I want to know. It brings the answers and it brings the comfort that at least she’s not out there hurting,” Bynum said.

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