It was raining hard the morning of May 2, 1995, as 15-year-old Kiplyn Davis ran out of her house in Spanish Fork to get a ride with her mom to her early-morning driver’s ed class.
A typical teenager, Kiplyn Davis was counting down the days until she could get her driver’s license, but was running late and suggested skipping her class that day because she hadn’t done her makeup yet.
Her father, Richard Davis, told her to get her damn makeup and get the hell out to the car where her mother, Tamara Davis, was waiting — not knowing those would be his last words to her. Even 23 years later, he still shakes his head at what he calls the “terrible memory” of casually swearing at his daughter as he watched her walk out the door for the last time.
Exactly 23 years have now passed since that day when Kiplyn Davis failed to return from school at 3:30 p.m. to watch her younger sister, leaving all her personal belongings in her locker.
Yet, her parents leave the porch light on. They don’t plan to turn it off until they find her, and the 23rd anniversary of her disappearance gives them the chance to make sure their daughter stays at the forefront of people’s minds in hope that someone who knows where she is will come forward.
The Davis family has spent all 23 years knowing only parts of the story of their daughter’s sudden disappearance rumors swirled, and even now, there are aspects of the story that are not entirely clear.
The first arrest wasn’t made in the case until 10 years later, when Scott Brunson was arrested on charges of perjury for falsely representing his knowledge of a third party involved in Kiplyn Davis’ disappearance. More arrests followed, and five people ended up serving prison time for perjury.
One of those men, Timmy Olsen, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the case in 2011, saying he had watched someone else kill Kiplyn Davis by hitting her in the head with a rock, then helped hide her body.
During his federal trial in 2006, multiple people testified that Olsen had admitted to raping, killing and burying the girl in Spanish Fork Canyon, according to an Associated Press article from 2006.
According to previous Daily Herald reporting, no murder or manslaughter charges were filed against the person who Olsen said hit Kiplyn Davis with the rock, because Olsen never specifically named that person in court.
The prosecutor in the case, Mariane O’Bryant, told the Daily Herald in 2011 that she, and others associated with the case, believe the person to be David Rucker Leifson, who pleaded guilty to federal perjury charges stemming from the investigation into Kiplyn Davis’ disappearance and served time in prison.
Even if Olsen had named Leifson, it would have been difficult to file charges, O’Bryant said in 2011, because Olsen was a convicted perjurer, and not a reliable witness.
Richard Davis said the family offered the men involved in the case deals if they would just lead them to the body. No one ever did.
Despite not getting all the answers or results they might have liked through the court system, the Davis family says they no longer care about having more trials or getting more convictions in the case: the only thing they care about is bringing their daughter home.
Though the porch light is left on, they harbor no illusions that Kiplin Davis will come bouncing up the steps one day — they have had her legally declared date of death as May 2, 1995, and have a headstone at the Spanish Fork City Cemetery, where she will be laid to rest if the body is ever found.
The family had their hopes brought up several times over the years that her body had been found. Richard Davis said Olsen took law enforcement to a place where he said the body was buried up Spanish Fork Canyon. Despite an extensive search, no body was located.
“All we want is her body back,” Richard Davis said. “I don’t care about the trials, we don’t care about that. We just want to recover her body and move on.”
The family believes there are more people who may know where her killers put her body, and can only hope the anniversary of her death will cause someone to come forward and reveal the location.
“We’re at a dead end right now,” Richard Davis said. “We want the people who know where she is to know that we’re not giving up. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to bring her home.”
Last year’s discovery of the remains of Peggy Sue Case, who was missing since 1988, in a Spanish Fork cellar has given the family hope that, even after all these years, someone will find Kiplyn Davis too.
“That’s what we need,” Richard Davis said. “We need a miracle like that.”
The ability to give Kiplyn Davis a proper burial would provide closure to her family, especially her younger sister Karissa Lords.
The two girls shared a room, and were close despite a six-year age difference. Lords still regrets that she never got a chance to say a proper goodbye to her sister.
“For me it’s been really hard, not getting that closure,” Lords said. “That 9-year-old self needs that.”
Lords still runs a Facebook page with more than 1,600 followers through which she gathers other people’s memories of her sister and reaches out, hoping for someone to come forward with information after all these years.
She works to keep her sister in people’s memories, and even went to the Spanish Fork City Council to get May 2 declared “Kiplyn’s Day” to raise awareness of missing people.
With the help of a friend, Lords also is planning a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening at the Spanish Fork Cemetery, to honor not just Kiplyn Davis, but all the other missing persons across Utah County and the state.
“I hope when families with missing children see this, they’ll realize how much support we have for them,” Lords said.
Words almost failed Richard Davis as he attempted to express what it would mean to him and Tamara Davis to find their daughter.
“We’d turn off the light,” he finally said. “She’d be home.”