Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields is a 3-part docu-series about a spate of cases involving missing women who were sometimes found to be murdered around the I-95 that ran through Texas. The series is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
The 1980s were a booming period for Huston as companies were set up in the city and there was a lot of work to go around which also attracted people from all over.
The Interstate or the I-95 ran through Huston to a city called Galveston and along the way, there were several small towns and oil plants interspersed with open lands or light forest cover.
In 1984, Tim Miller’s daughter Laura went missing in League City, Texas one evening after failing to return from a payphone barely half a mile away from their house. Tim went to the authorities but they brushed it off by classifying Laura as a runaway.
Tim later learnt that just a year earlier, Heide Fye had gone missing in the same area and her body was found 6 months later in a field near Calder Road. Tim insisted that the police look in those fields but they didn’t heed his requests.
Heide’s disappearance was similarly dismissed because she was a cocktail waitress and not considered a person of importance by the authorities. Her body was found when a dog from a nearby house found her skull, forcing the owners to investigate further.
2 years after Laura’s disappearance, some boys on dirt bikes found another body in Calder field, and when the authorities searched the nearby area, they came across a third body which was eventually recognized to be Laura Miller’s body.
The second body was classified as Jane Doe and the proximity of these bodies led to the theory that these killings were connected. Further investigation into the matter showed that since the 1970s, several girls and young women had gone missing across the length of I-95.
Due to the 3 bodies found in Calder Field, it was dubbed the “Texas Killing Fields” after a famous movie that came out at the time. An early suspect in the case was Clyde Hedrick a local contractor who had a history of abuse and a prior criminal record.
Hedrick was involved in the mysterious death of Ellen Beason who had become a close acquaintance of his. Hedrick had dumped her body among some trash and claimed that she had drowned while they were out skinny dipping in a nearby lake.
With no concrete evidence, Hedrick was charged with “Abuse of a Corpse” and sentenced to a year in jail. He later married a woman who had a son and daughter. The daughter, Marla, later accused Hedrick of sexually assaulting her.
A fourth body was found in 1991 not too far from the first three and was classified as Janet Doe because her identity could not be ascertained. The FBI got involved and a profile was shared which threw up a new suspect, Robert Abel, who owned the adjoining properties.
Abel was very cooperative with the authorities but that only made him more suspicious in the eyes of many. In 1997, 12-year-old Laura Smither went missing in nearby Friendswood, Texas and this pushed the authorities into action as major search parties were organised.
Her body was found 17 days later.
Meanwhile, Marla had told her mother that Clyde Hedrick has exposed himself to her and he denied it. Marla moved out after high school and a few years later after her mother left Clyde, they found evidence in their old trailer that he spied on Marla through a hole in the wall.
They reported this to authorities but nothing was done about it.
In 1997, two other women, Kelli Ann Cox and Jessica Cain went missing within a month of each other in nearby areas. In May 1997, another young girl, Sandra Sapaugh jumped out of a moving vehicle after being abducted one night.
Her ability to describe her abductor made a huge break in the case.
Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields ending explained in detail:
What happened to Robert Abel?
Tim Miller was convinced that Robert Abel fit the profile of the offender that the FBI framed and even though there was never concrete evidence against him, Tim made it his life’s mission to prove that Abel was responsible for his daughter’s death.
Abel had become a pariah in League City and even filed for protection from Tim Miller who had gone as far as threatening bodily harm. He eventually sold his property and moved across the country to get away from all the accusations.
In 2005, Tim finally accepted that Abel wasn’t responsible for the Calder Road killings and he personally apologised to him. Abel later died of a possible suicide after driving his gold cart up to the tracks just as a train was arriving.
Who was Bill Reece?
Bill Reece was the man that Sandra Sapaugh accused of attempting to kidnap her and he was arrested and put on trial. Reece was strongly considered for the murder of Laura Smither and the abductions of Kelli Cox and Jessica Cain but there was not enough evidence to prove it.
Reece was only convicted for Sandra’s kidnapping and sentenced to 60 years in prison, all the while maintaining that he was innocent.
In 2016, William Reece led the authorities to the bodies of Kelli Cox and Jessica Cain to avoid the death penalty in an unrelated murder case. On June 29, 2022, he pleaded guilty to the murder of Laura Smither, Kelli Cox and Jessica Cain and was sentenced to consecutive life sentences.
What happened to Clyde Hedrick?
In 2012, the remains of Ellen Beason were exhumed and upon further examination of her body, it was concluded that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head after a massive fracture was found in her skull.
The authorities brought in Clyde Hedrick to question him about the incident but he stuck to his original account. Hedrick was arrested under the suspicion of Ellen Beason’s murder and while he was in jail awaiting trial, he made a few more confessions to his fellow inmates.
Hedrick admitted to killing Laura Miller and Heide Fye. However, according to Texas law, he could not be convicted based on information provided by jailhouse informants.
In 2014, Hedrick faced trial for the murder of Ellen Beason and was convicted by the jury of manslaughter instead and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Marla testified at the trial about how she was harassed and assaulted by Hedrick as well.
Due to a Texas law, Hedrick was released on parole after serving only 8 years of his sentence much to the disappointment of the family members of Laura Miller and Heidi Fye as well as Marla.
Who were Jane and Janet Doe?
In 2019, through the process of forensic genealogy, a DNA profile was extracted for both women and entered into various databases. Janet Doe was identified as Donna Gonsulin Prudhomme and Jane Doe was identified as Audrey Lee Cook.
Their pictures are still being circulated in the hope that someone who may have known them or interacted with them back then might come forward with information that could help solve the case of their disappearance and eventual deaths.