Popular true crime documentary miniseries “Crime Scene” is back with its newest iteration, “The Texas Killing Fields,” providing an insightful look into the horrid place and events. The three episodes here talk about the victims, their families, and the possible perpetrators linked to a stretch of land where more than thirty bodies had been found over three decades. “Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields” is a spine-chilling watch with an emotional effect, too, as families of the victims play an important part in telling this story.
What Is ‘The Texas Killing Fields’?
The Texas Killing Fields is essentially a stretch of land in Texas’ League City, situated beside the major Interstate Highway 45 and some miles away from Houston. Named the Calder fields, in reality, the place had always been an easy spot for people to dump unnecessary items and appliances, but such a perception soon changed when dead bodies and the remains of young girls and women started to appear there one after another. A brief introduction to the history of League City suggests that it turned from a local settlement to a more established suburb when the nearby metropolis of Houston started to develop as a city. With the NASA center and then Exxon’s power plants, Houston was becoming the place to be in Texas around the 1970s, and there had been a large increase in the associated violence too. Since people were flocking to the new city, and many were moving in and out of the place regularly as part of their jobs, more than ten young girls and women had been found murdered in the vast stretch of wild lands outside the city’s bounds. These disappearances and the following discoveries of the remains all took place in the 1970s decade, and it was largely believed that drifters, i.e., men from other states moving to Texas due to their possible criminal records in the other states, had committed these murders and had dumped the bodies of the victims out on the open fields. The empty surroundings, marshy lands, and general lack of human presence had made the place seem like a suitable spot to dump dead bodies without anyone ever finding out about them. But with the cases of the 1970s somewhat put to rest and the new decade settling in, the neighborhood at League City believed that the unlawfulness at Calder Fields was behind them. This massively changed when the bodies of three teenage girls were found mere yards away from each other over just two years’ time in the same open field.
Who Were The Victims Of The Heinous Crimes?
“Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields” mostly focuses on the cases and victims of the 1980s and 1990s, with the families of these victims playing an important role in the documentary series. Heidi Villareal Fye and Laura Miller had both disappeared from the League City area within a span of eleven months, and despite both their parents and families trying hard to look for them, no trace of the women could be found. While Heidi was relatively older at the time of her disappearance, around 25, and was also working at a nearby bar, Laura was only sixteen when she went missing. Both of them had been spotted last at a local phone booth, and nobody could help the families with their search. The families had duly reported the incidents to the police, but the authorities did not do much either. In both cases, the police tried to convince the parents that their daughters had gone away of their own accord and wanted them to wait a few days before taking matters too seriously. However, both the fathers began searches of their own, as Heidi’s father would interview and ask around almost everyone in the bars and the locality if he could get any new information. In his time, Laura’s father searched through the entire neighborhood for clues about his daughter’s disappearance but could not find anything. What Tim Miller, Laura’s father, regrets, though, is the fact that he did not reach out to Heidi’s family during his search because he was asked not to do so by the police. Perhaps because they did not take the disappearances very seriously, the police tried to make Tim believe that the similar case that had taken place eleven months earlier had been completely unrelated to the disappearance of his teenage daughter. Although it could never be proved that the two cases were indeed linked, the sheer fact that the bodies and remains of the two women were found a few yards apart definitely raised suspicion that this was the work of a serial killer. Along with the discovery of these two bodies, the remains of a third unidentified woman were also found in the same area at the same time.
Gradually, as the years passed, the murders of the women still remained unsolved, and then another unidentified body appeared at the same spot once again, making it almost apparent that it was the same person who was possibly murdering women and dumping them in the same area. It was now 1997, six years after the last discovery when twelve-year-old Laura Smither went missing from her neighborhood and seemed to have been kidnapped by the killer in a similar manner. While the police generally passed on the previous cases, mostly saying that the women had either run away from home or gotten involved with drug groups or other dangerous circles, this case of such a young girl who would not have been exposed to such things made the authorities extremely conscious. The police and the community came together to search for the young girl, and she was extensively searched for until her remains were finally found in a pond in the Killing Fields area. Just three months after this, another twenty-year-old woman, Kelli Ann Cox, also went missing in Denton, Texas, and then another teenager named Jessica Cain disappeared. By all this time, Tim Miller had taken things into his own hands and started a non-profit organization named Texas Equusearch, which still organizes search parties and teams to look for missing people. Incidentally, Tim and his work were also seen recently in Netflix’s recent documentary film “I Am Vanessa Guillen,” as Equusearch found the remains of the woman too.
Who Were Suspects To Have Committed The Murders?
From the very beginning of the matter, it was suspected that more than one serial killer might have been involved in the murders. Throughout the years, three men had come under the extreme scrutiny of the authorities for the crimes, and the first one presented in “Crime Scene” is Robert Abel, who was the owner of the land on which the bodies had been found. At the time, the police had been looking for certain characteristics and personality traits that would fit in with the perpetrator of the crimes, and these included violence against women and animals, an acute lack of empathy and a possible history of assault and violence. Robert Abel fit this bill well, as he had all these personal records. However, the man was also very helpful to the police and the Equusearch team with all the investigations, saying that he, too, wanted the murderer to be brought to justice. While this raised suspicion against him as well, as Tim Miller notably tried to find proof against Abel for years, no hard evidence could be found against the man. This also became a staple in the case of every other suspect in this matter as well, that no evidence could be found to either confirm them as the killers or to clear their names completely of suspicion. A major lack of competence on the part of the authorities is also something that is constant throughout the documentary series. To mention one instance, the type of gun used to kill one of the unidentified women found in the Killing Fields in the ’80s was found in Robert Abel’s possession at his house. However, the bullet remains found in the woman’s body had been destroyed during the police investigation, so such a lead could never be used against Abel.
A huge breakthrough in the police’s search for the killer came in 1997 when a 19-year-old woman named Sandra Sepo reported having been kidnapped by a strange man from a convenience store. Although the man had taken Sandra hostage in his van and was driving away, the woman managed to open the car’s door and jump out of the moving vehicle. Not only was she able to save her own life, but she also provided a much-needed facial sketch of her abductor to the police. This sketch, when cross-checked with the police’s past criminal records, brought up the name of William Lewis Reece. Having already been involved with a murder case in Oklahoma, Reece was surely the man for the police to investigate, and he was soon arrested. The characteristics and clothing items, such as a distinguishable cowboy hat that Sandra had reported, were all found in Reece’s house, and it was now certain that he had been the kidnapper. A general belief also began to grow that Reece had been the killer of Laura Smither, Kelli Ann Cox, and Jessica Cain as well, owing to the same area where Sandra had been kidnapped. However, in his initial trial, William Reece was only charged with the kidnapping and attempted murder of Sandra and was handed a sixty-year prison sentence. While the later murders of the women found in the Killing Fields area were now somewhat explained, the bodies found in the 1980s could not be brought to any conclusion yet. Although William Reece would have been a fit as a murderer in these cases, too, he was actually imprisoned in Oklahoma during this time in the ’80s and was therefore ruled out of any suspicion related to these murders.
The third suspected serial killer, who possibly committed the crimes in the ’80s, was a man named Clyde Hedrick. The neighborhood of League City had originally been suspicious of Hedrick as well, as the man had a past history of abusive relationships and assault, but the focus had gone away from him in the middle. “Crime Scene: Texas Killing Fields” also presents the accounts of a woman named Marla, who provided important information on the case as her mother had once been married to Hedrick. Even before Hedrick had come into contact with Marla’s mother and her family, he had been arrested on the unusual charge of “abuse of a corpse.” In 1984, a woman named Ellen Beason was found dead on the side of the I-45 highway, and she had been last seen with Hedrick. When the police interrogated the man, he claimed that the two of them had gone swimming to a pond by the side of the road one night, and Ellen had somehow drowned in the water. Hedrick had apparently first tried to drive the woman to a hospital but had panicked midway, thinking that he would be suspected of killing her, and had then dumped her body in the open fields. Such an act, which technically intervened in the law’s process of serving justice, was termed “abuse of a corpse” at the time, and Clyde Hedrick was charged with this. Although Marla’s mother seemed to know of this case, she did not care much for it as she was deeply attracted to Hedrick. However, the man’s devilish nature gradually started to come out in the open, as he committed multiple acts of sexual misconduct with his own stepdaughter at the time, ranging from exposing himself to her to peeping into her room through a hole he had drilled in the wall. Although Marla and her mother had complained of this to the police sometime in the ’90s, any solid piece of evidence against Clyde Hedrick was found in 2012, when the FBI exhumed the body of Ellen Beason and performed a detailed autopsy on it. This test, now with modern equipment, revealed that Beason’s skull had been cracked open by force so strong that no accident could cause such an injury. The FBI concluded that Hedrick had indeed murdered the woman, and he was soon arrested after this. It was then, during his time spent in prison, that Hedrick confessed to some of his inmates, who were also police informers, that he had killed Heidi Fye and Laura Miller as well.
‘Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields’ Ending: What Ultimately Happened To Clyde Hedrick And William Reece?
Although Hedrick had somewhat confessed to having killed the two women in the 1980s, these confessions could not be used in court since the law does not allow statements to be used from police informers in prison. Hedrick was tried in court for the murder of Ellen Beason, and he was given a sentence of twenty years in prison. The man did not officially admit to the murders of Heidi and Laura Miller, but almost everyone believes he was the perpetrator in those cases too. Marla later met with Tim Miller and worked with him to reach the exact spot where the two women’s remains had been found, and Marla still claims that her stepfather had indeed once taken her and her brother there, saying that he was doing some work at the place. Despite being given the maximum prison sentence, Clyde Hedrick was also released from prison in October of 2021 on parole after serving just eight years. This was due to a technicality in the state laws of Texas, and the vicious predator was left free even though he had probably murdered two other women for which he was not even charged. The fate of William Reece was a bit more satisfactory, though, for the man ultimately confessed to the murders of Smither, Cox, and Cain in court and was found guilty of the same in June of 2022. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment for each of the three murders. While Clyde Hedrick could not be proven to be the killer in the Calder Field murders, the FBI official working the case requests any new possible leads and information regarding the case, for he is still investigating the matter. The two unidentified women victims were also later identified using DNA testing as Donna Prudhomme and Audrey Lee Cook, at least ensuring that they were not just left behind as mere statistics but as actual people who lost their lives to horrific sexual predators.
“Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields” is a 2022 Crime Documentary series streaming on Netflix.