A true crime series has detailed how a man was convicted of killing two of his wives after his mail-order bride from the Philippines vanished without a trace.
A recent episode of the Oxygen network’s new show Exhumed revisited the murders of Sharon Reeves, 34, and Emelita Reeves, 26, who died 16 years apart at the hands of their husband Jack Reeves.
Sharon’s death was initially ruled a suicide after she was found with a gunshot wound to her chest in 1978, but it wasn’t until Emelita disappeared in 1994 that police became suspicious of Jack, who already had not one, but two dead wives.
Scroll down for video
Crime and punishment: Jack Reeves (pictured) is serving life in prison for murdering his second wife, Sharon, and fourth wife, Emelita
Loss: Sharon, 34, (left) and Emelita, 26, (right) were murdered 16 years a part. Sharon’s death was initially ruled a suicide, but police reinvestigated the case after Emelita went missing
Jack was 18 when he married his first wife, who was only 15 when they said ‘I do.’ Their marriage was annulled in 1960.
Less than a year later, he wed Sharon and enlisted in the Army. In 1967, he was stationed in Verona, Italy, with his family when he shot and killed an Italian man he claimed was peeking into their bedroom window.
He spent four months in jail for manslaughter before a petition drive from his hometown of Wichita Falls, Texas, was sent to then-President Lyndon Johnson, who convinced Italian authorities to drop the charges.
When they returned to the U.S., Jack and Sharon moved to Copperas Cove, Texas, with their sons Ricky and Randall, who were born in Italy.
In 1978, Jack called the police and claimed his wife had shot herself. When investigators arrived on the scene, they found Sharon lying dead in her bedroom with a gunshot wound through her heart and a shotgun between her legs.
True crime author Patricia Springer explained on the show that the only person who was there when Sharon died was Jack and their young son, who had been playing in the front yard at the time.
‘Jack Reeves told the officers that he heard the gunshot, came into the bedroom, and observed his wife laying on the bed with the shotgun between her legs,’ recalled Tommy LeNoir, a detective with the Arlington Police Department.
Another murder? Jack’s third wife, Myong, drowned in a lake in 1984, and it was ruled an accident. When Mygon’s sister demanded an autopsy, he had her body cremated
Horrible: Jack’s fourth wife, Emelita, was a mail-order bride from the Philippines. She was last seen alive on October 11, 1994
Jack suggested that Sharon sat on the edge of the bed, put the shotgun to her chest, and pulled the trigger with her toe. He even pointed out a cut on her toe to officers to back up his story.
Sharon appeared to be dead, but when Copperas Cove Police Officer Johnny Smith reached down to check her pulse by her wrist, she grabbed him.
‘She reached up and took hold of my wrist with her last bit of air. It startled me,’ he told the Los Angeles Times in 1996. ‘It was a tight grip. I had to pry her fingers from around my wrist.’
The officer admitted during the interview that he still wasn’t sure if it was a muscle reflex or Sharon trying to tell him something.
Jack told officers that Sharon had started seeing someone else and served him with divorce papers while he was stationed in South Korea, but he didn’t sign them. He claimed that he came home to salvage their marriage.
He gave the police a suicide note that he alleged was from Sharon. The message stated that she wanted to end her life because she was torn between her husband and lover.
Living in fear: Before she vanished, Emelita told her friends to go to the police if she disappeared
Monster: ‘Jack was not a nice man to [Emelita]. He was brutal to her both emotionally and physically at times,’ true crime author Patricia Spring explained
But those who were close to Sharon didn’t believe she would take her own life.
‘There was no way Sharon would commit suicide. She had too much to look forward to. It just didn’t make any sense whatsoever,’ her friend and colleague Sybil Freuh told producers.
Police didn’t order a handwriting analysis or an autopsy, and Sharon’s death was listed as a suicide.
Jack went on to marry his third wife, Myong Reeves, in South Korea. She drowned in Texas’s Lake Whitney in 1984, which Myong’s sister found to be suspicious.
She told the Los Angeles Times that her sister would have never gone into the lake because she couldn’t swim. At the funeral, she noticed there were bruises on her sister’s face that seemed inconsistent with death by drowning.
She also shared that her sister had written her a letter just days before saying Jack beat her and forced her to engage in humiliating sexual acts.
When she demanded an autopsy be performed, Jack canceled the burial plans and had Myong cremated. Despite his suspicious behavior, the death was ruled an accident.
Investigation: Tommy LeNoir (pictured), a detective with the Arlington Police Department, asked to have Sharon’s body exhumed after Emelita’s disappearance
Would it work? Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Barnard warned that there might not be any evidence to find depending on the state of the body’s decomposition
After Myong’s death, he picked out his fourth wife, Emelita, from a mail-order bride catalog. She was just 18 and living in poverty with her family in the Philippines when they got married. Jack was 28 years her senior.
She was reportedly reluctant to marry him, but her family wanted her to because he sent them money every month.
A friend told the Los Angeles Times that Jack sent Emelita back to the Philippines when she got pregnant because he was convinced the child wasn’t his.
He later changed his mind after examining a photo of the child and determined the baby was his. He then had her return to their home Arlington, Texas, with their son.
Like Jack’s previous wives, Emelita was getting ready to leave him when she disappeared. She was last seen alive on October 11, 1994.
When Emelita stopped answering her phone, her friend Monalisa Pate called the Arlington Police Department to do a welfare check on the mother of one.
‘She said it’s just not in character for her to not answer her phone or pager,’ LeNoir told the show’s producers.
Looking for the truth: Sharon’s father believed that Jack had killed his daughter and readily agreed to the exhumation
Waiting game: Investigators eagerly waited for the casket to be removed, which took two hours
No one answered when officers knocked on the couple’s door that day, but they could tell someone was home. While walking the perimeters, they peered into the garage window and saw Jack kneeling down behind a car.
Jack told the officers he didn’t know where Emelita had gone but claimed she would often leave for two or three days at a time.
He alleged that she probably ran off with her boyfriend or girlfriend, saying she was having an affair with the friend who called the police.
‘When people start engaging in multiple relationships, there’s always that propensity for things to go wrong,’ LeNoir explained.
While Monalisa confirmed that she was romantically involved with Emelita, she insisted she had no idea where she could be. Emelita’s friends were concerned because she specifically told them to to the police if she disappeared.
‘Jack was not a nice man to her. He was brutal to her both emotionally and physically at times,’ Springer said.
The deaths of Jack’s previous two wives were a red flag for the police, making them even more suspicious of the former Army master sergeant.
Big break: The metal casket that Jack had ordered for his second wife had kept her body well-preserved over the years, and the coroner determined that Sharon’s death was a murder
Guilty: LeNoir said Jack wasn’t even sure what murder he was charged with when he was taken into custody for killing Sharon. He actually asked: ‘Which one?’
The Arlington Police Department reached out to the Copperas Cove Police Department about Sharon’s suicide.
LeNoir managed to obtain the only remaining crime scene photo from a detective who had worked on the case.
After finding the blood patterns and positioning of the gun to be suspicious, he approached Sharon’s father for permission to exhume her body and do an autopsy. The grieving dad believed that Jack had killed his daughter and readily agreed.
Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Barnard warned that there might not be any evidence to find depending on the state of the body’s decomposition.
‘In Texas, the heat is of a magnitude that during the summer a body can get into significant decomposition within 24 hours,’ he explained. ‘It’s really hard to guess what a body might look 16 years later. It could be that you really can’t get any results.’
But as luck would have it, the metal casket that Jack had ordered for his second wife had kept her body well-preserved over the years.
The coroner found that the cut on Sharon’s toe was not a gunshot trigger wound. She also didn’t have any gunpowder residue on her skin, which pointed to her death being a homicide — not a suicide.
Analysis of the crime scene photo proved that the positioning of her body and the blood splatters didn’t match the story that Jack had told them.
Suspicious: Jack was later charged with Emelita’s murder. Her body was found a year after she disappeared near the lake where Jack’s third wife had drowned
Serving time: After being found guilty of both Sharon and Emelitas murders, Jack was sentenced to life in prison
Investigators determined that if Sharon had shot herself, her body would have collapsed forward or straight down, not backward on the bed like she was found. She wasn’t even tall enough to reach the shotgun’s trigger the way it was placed.
Jack was arrested for homicide on March 25, 1996 — right when he was about mail a letter to the Philippines requesting another mail-order bride.
LeNoir said the killer wasn’t even sure what murder he was charged with when he was taken into custody.
‘I always thought his response was incredible. He said, “Which one?”‘ the detective recalled.
While they were able to charge him with Sharon’s murder, Emelita was still missing, and without a body, investigators had little to go on.
It was Randall, Jack’s son with Sharon, who came forward with new information after his father’s arrest. He told investigators that his dad asked him to hide Emelita’s cellphone before giving it to them.
Randall also said Jack gutted a new couch and dumped it after his Emelita went missing. He later saw him wash the truck he used to transport the sofa.
He even suggested where Jack may have dumped Emelita’s body, saying his father was familiar with Lake Whitney State Park — the same place that Myong had drowned — and went camping there the day after his fourth wife had disappeared.
Police searched the park but still weren’t able to find Emelita’s body. It wasn’t until a year later, in October 1995, a hunter and his son found her skull there. Jack was charged with the murder shortly after.
Jack was found guilty of Sharon’s murder in January 1996 and sentenced to 35 years. In August 1996, he was sentenced to another 99 years after being found guilty of killing Emelita.