Monday, June 20, 2022

The Disappearance of Kaila Morris

 

Kaila Morris has been missing since September 17th, 2009. The then-21-year-old was last seen in the New Hope community of Columbus, Mississippi. At the time of her disappearance, Kaila was a student at Mississippi State University in Starkville. She was living near the campus in a condo that she shared with her stepbrother. Kaila's mother and stepfather lived in the New Hope community; located approximately 36 miles away from her condo. On the day Kaila vanished, she was visiting her parent's house. 

Kaila's mother, Bonnie Thames, was on vacation in Florida during Kaila's visit to their home on September 17th. The only person at the residence was Kaila's stepfather, Robert 'Butch' Triplett. According to Butch, Kaila left the home around 8:00 PM, after saying she was going to Carrollton, Alabama to visit her best friend Labriska Walker, and her godson. Butch said Kaila was picked up in a dark-colored van or SUV. She left her own car and her dog at the residence. Kaila has never been seen or heard from again. 

Butch's version of events implies that there was some sort of mix-up between Kaila and Labriska. Butch claimed that Labriska and her son showed up at the New Hope residence about 15 minutes after Kaila left. It was reportedly not unusual for Kaila and Labriska to show up at each other's homes unannounced, as it was difficult for them to get in touch via call or text due to the lack of cell phone service in New Hope. 

The following afternoon, Kaila's mother Bonnie spoke to Butch, who told her that Kaila was still at Labriska's house. Bonnie thought it was odd for Kaila to leave for that long without taking her dog. Bonnie then decided to reach out to Labriska on Facebook, who told her that Kaila had never shown up at her house. Bonnie said she immediately knew something was wrong at that point, so she asked Butch to report Kaila missing to the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department. 

Although Kaila was an adult at the time she vanished, her loved ones were immediately concerned for her safety. Many have described Kaila as an extremely shy and cautious young woman. She would often lock the door to the condo that she shared with her stepbrother the second he'd leave the residence–even if he was just taking out the trash. In addition to her dog and her car, Kaila also left behind her medication, which she required daily, and many of her other personal belongings. With all of this is mind, it seems unlikely that Kaila vanished on her own accord. 

As police investigated Kaila's disappearance, they learned of many suspicious circumstances involving Butch. He initially presented himself as a concerned stepfather, even stating he was upset with himself for not getting more information from Kaila about her plans that evening. However, as the investigation continued, detectives learned some concerning information about both Butch himself and his relationship with Kaila. The events that followed Kaila's disappearance further deepened these concerns.

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Robert 'Butch' Triplett was not a stranger to police, even before Kaila vanished. In fact, during 1997 he was found guilty of forcible rape in Louisiana. Butch was sentenced to six years in prison, but in 2001 his conviction was reduced to a simple battery charge and he was released six months later. In 2003, he was yet again charged with attempted sexual battery, but those charges were dropped after the victim declined to show up to court. 

Butch also reportedly had inappropriate interactions with Kaila. At some point throughout the investigation, Butch admitted to giving Kaila a massage while she was topless. He also admitted to kissing her on the lips on two different occasions, but said he never did it again after it "seemed like she didn't like it". 

Investigators found that Kaila's bedsheets were freshly washed after she vanished. Butch claimed that she had asked him to wash them before she left the residence. He also said that Kaila asked him to check on property that she owned in Pickens County, Alabama. Butch said that he went to the property with an ax and a shovel, but got his ATV stuck for two hours. Investigators searched said property, but did not find any sign of Kaila.

Investigators eventually got a warrant for Butch's computer. Hundreds of child pornography images were found on the hard drive. Butch claimed he was unaware that the individuals in the photos were underage. He was subsequently arrested on charges of possession of child pornography. 

Kaila's mother Bonnie continued to support Butch. She maintained that she did not believe he was involved in Kaila's disappearance, nor did she believe he was guilty of the child pornography charges. However, Bonnie eventually changed her tune, stopped paying his legal fees, and filed for divorce. With his legal fees no longer being paid for, Butch ultimately pleaded guilty. He was deemed a habitual offender and as a result, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison. 

Butch has never been charged with anything related to Kaila's case, and he has continued to deny involvement in her disappearance. Kaila remains missing today, and it has been several years since an update in the investigation. 

If you have any information that could help solve Kaila's case, please submit a tip.
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