'Texas Killing Fields': Relentless dad Tim Miller wants Clyde Hedrick's 'name out there'

DICKINSON, Texas – A little before 2 p.m. on Monday, Tim Miller sits to enjoy his lunch, a two-pack of Reese's peanut butter cups.

“It’s what my heart doctor says is the best for me,” jokes the founder of search and recovery organization Texas EquuSearch. Miller is a subject of the Ron Howard-backed docuseries “Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields,” streaming now on Netflix.

“If I live another two weeks, I'll be 76,” says Miller, who has been plagued with back and heart problems. “I'm pretty for my age.”

His humor is a welcome crack of light splicing through the sinister subject matter covered by the three-part docuseries, the third installment of the “Crime Scene” franchise that previously covered a mysterious death at a rundown Los Angeles hotel and the crimes of serial killer Richard Cottingham.

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The latest chapter examines an area off of I-45 between Houston suburbs and coastal Galveston Island dubbed the Texas Killing Fields because of the number of women and girls discovered there. William Reece, a killer examined in the series, has admitted to slaying three young women in Texas: Laura Smither, who was 12 at the time of her disappearance; Jessica Cain, then 17; and Kelli Ann Cox, then 20.

But the cases of four women whose remains were found on land off Calder Road in League City remain unsolved: Donna Prudhomme, 34 when she disappeared in July 1991; Audrey Cook, 30 when she was last in contact with her family in December 1985, according to police; Heide Fye, 25 when she disappeared in October 1983; and Miller's own daughter, Laura, who was just 16 when she was taken on Sept. 10, 1984.

Participating in the docuseries gave Miller pause that his organization, which he founded in 2000, would be flooded with requests. EquuSearch has a small staff, just Miller and three others and a board of directors and volunteers for searches. But Miller committed for one reason: He’s “pissed off at Clyde Hedrick and I wanted his name out there.”

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The 1983 disappearance of Heide Fye is examined in Netflix's "Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields."
The 1983 disappearance of Heide Fye is examined in Netflix's "Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields."

In 2014, Hedrick was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 1984 death of Ellen Beason, but he has not been charged in any of the Calder Road cases.

Before Laura's disappearance, Hedrick lived just three doors down from Miller. He says in the docuseries that a friend of his daughter's said that when they walked the neighborhood they would avoid Hedrick's house "because Laura was afraid" of him. Fye could've crossed paths with Hedrick at the bar Texas Moon, where she worked and Hedrick met Beason.

Hedrick once abused his former stepdaughter, she alleges in the docuseries. Identified as Marla, she says Hedrick exposed himself to her and drugged her Kool-Aid, and she would "be sore in places that I shouldn't be." Marla says Hedrick took her to the Killing Fields once, and she remembers him digging.

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A woman identified in the docuseries as Marla, visits Calder Road, a place she says Clyde Hedrick brought her to.
A woman identified in the docuseries as Marla, visits Calder Road, a place she says Clyde Hedrick brought her to.

Hedrick served only eight years of his 20-year sentence in Beason's death and was released from jail in October 2021, paroled on mandatory supervision, defined by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles as "a legislatively mandated release of a prisoner to parole supervision when the combination of actual calendar time and good conduct time equal the sentence."

Hedrick supposedly confessed to jailmates that he killed Laura Miller, according to the docuseries. Miller says in an interview that he has been contacted by someone who helped Hedrick dispose of his victims.

Miller is so committed to investigating Hedrick he says he has visited Florida – where Hedrick lived three times – spoke to his ex-wife, and spent more than $6,000 cleaning out Hedrick’s house after he went to prison.

“Found some things in there I felt as though was evidence that League City (police) just kind of blew off,” Miller says.

Miller says he keeps Hedrick’s scrapbooks documenting his childhood and other belongings at the office: “I kept it hoping maybe when Clyde gets out of the halfway house, maybe he'll come and ask me if he can have it back. I don't know.”

Miller fears the cold cases of the Killing Fields will never be solved. He places blame on the League City Police Department and says it mishandled Laura's investigation and ignored his tip about Calder Road.

“I said 'If you had listened to me, you would’ve found Laura,'” he says. “There would’ve been evidence, and we would have been able to determine cause of death,” which would have helped build a case strong enough to lead to a conviction. The League City Police Department declined to comment on the docuseries or any new developments.

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Miller says, “Everybody’s getting older, and their health is getting worse and the killing fields will always remain an unsolved mystery.”

Even Miller isn’t as active at search sites as he once was because of his declining health. But he forges on.

“What do you want me to do?” Miller asks. “I can go to (famed furniture store owner Jim McIngvale) 'Mattress Mack,' I can get a La-Z-Boy recliner and I can sit and watch ‘Oprah’ all day, or I could do what I'm doing.”

He tried quitting before, while standing in front of a cross he built shortly before Christmas in 1986 that marks the site of where his daughter was found.

“I would go out there, and I’d stand in front of that cross, and I’d say: ‘Laura, please don't hate your daddy. I cannot come out here anymore. I have to say goodbye, and I have to put my life back together.’ I'd be walking away, and I'd hear a little voice say: ‘Dad don't quit. Please don't quit.’”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Texas Killing Fields' Netflix documentary: Why Tim Miller won't quit