Hey, y’all, and welcome to Southern Macabre! I’m Aeryn and I’m so glad you’re joining me for Missing Person Monday. Before I tell you about today’s case I just wanted to point out that this is episode number twenty-five and Southern Macabre is two months old today! That’s incredible and I just want to thank y’all for listening.
Today we’re going back to Columbus, Mississippi to talk about Kaila Morris, a 21-year-old woman who has been missing since September 17, 2009.
Kaila was a student at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi and she shared a condo with her stepbrother, Trey Triplett, and her beloved English bulldog, Tonka. She worked part-time at The Cookie Store in Leigh Mall, which is about twenty minutes away in Columbus.
She was described as shy to the point of being considered standoffish until she got to know the people she was with. She was also cautious to the point of being paranoid. When Trey would take the trash out, she would lock the door until he came back. She also didn’t like riding with people, so she almost always drove, even if it was someone she knew.
Kaila suffered from depression after her father, Andy Morris, died of leukemia in 2002 and her grandmother passed in 2007. She was very close to her grandmother, who lived in Columbus and spent a lot of time with her. She took medication to deal with her depression.
Her mother, Bonnie, and her stepfather, Robert “Butch” Triplett, lived in the New Hope community in Columbus, which is basically a very small town with a grocery store, gas stations, one of the best schools in the area, and is considered a safe place to live. Their home was very rural and did not have cellphone reception at that time.
Kaila was visiting her parent’s home with Tonka on September 17, but only her stepfather was home. Around eight o’clock that evening, while Butch was using the bathroom, she walked inside and said she was leaving and who she was riding with, but Butch had a hearing problem and couldn’t make out what she was saying. He was able to hear that after the first part of her plans, she was going to visit her best friend, Labriska Walker, and her godson in Carrollton, Alabama about thirty minutes away.
Butch said that when he walked out of the bathroom, he saw a dark-colored van or SUV pulling out of the driveway and noticed Kaila’s vehicle still parked in front of the garage. Fifteen minutes after Kaila left, Labriska pulled up with her son to visit. Butch said this wasn’t unusual as neither family had cellphone reception at the time so the young women would just show up at each other’s house unannounced.
Butch said they didn’t realize anything was wrong until the next day when Butch told Bonnie that Kaila was still at Labriska’s and Bonnie reached out to her on Facebook. She said that Kaila had never arrived at her house. Butch reported Kaila missing to the Lowndes County Police Department at 8 pm after her mother asked him to.
Kaila left her anti-depressants, shoes, purse, wallet, and car keys behind. She did take her cellphone, but it hasn’t been used since the afternoon of September 17th. About five hours before Butch said she left. Her purse was in her car, but everything else was in the house. He said that he saw her rummaging around in her car, like she was looking for something.
He also said that before she left, Kaila asked him to go check her property in Pickens County, Alabama. So he went out there on his ATV with a shovel and an ax and got stuck for two hours. He told police that the property is on the way to Labriska’s home and they should check there for Kaila. He also admitted to washing Kaila’s bedsheets after she left, claiming that she had complained they were dirty. From what I have read, police did check that property and other land that Bonnie owned, but they still haven’t found Kaila.
There are rumors that she was going to inherit a large sum of money when she turned twenty-one in a few days. That may have been true, but let’s be honest, she already had money. She owned the condo in Starkville. Also, this wouldn’t be a good motive since the police couldn’t find her in order to declare her deceased.
Police obtained warrants to check the Triplett’s home and Bonnie mentioned that Butch had swapped his hard drive out of his laptop about two weeks before Kaila went missing. When police checked his computers they found child pornography. There were 778 images and he tried to say that he wasn’t aware that they were underage. Then he said that they didn’t have warrants for his computers, but they did.
Butch also admitted to massaging Kaila topless, sometimes with her mom present, and he said that he kissed her on the lips twice. He didn’t do it again because she didn’t seem to like that. This is the last person to see her alive and he was a total creep.
Butch was sentenced to forty years as a habitual offender and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine in September 2012. According to the news article, he had over 4,000 images of child pornography on his computer.
At the time of Kaila’s disappearance, Tripplett was on probation for an aggravated assault charge in Jackson, Mississippi. He was originally charged with binding a woman with rope and raping her, but he used his charm to get the court location changed and she didn’t show up for the new court date. He served ten years for that charge when he violated probation. He is now in prison serving ten years for felony possession of child pornography. When that sentence is up, he’ll serve his forty years. If he lives that long, he’s currently 71 years old.
Originally, Bonnie was paying his legal fees and maintaining his innocence in her daughter’s disappearance and child pornography. Then, she stopped and filed for divorce. He pled guilty once he was responsible for his own legal fees, but still maintains his innocence in Kaila’s disappearance.
Sadly, this case has gone cold and there haven’t been any updates in twelve years. Originally police believed that she had been kidnapped, but I think suspicion has fallen on Butch. If it hasn’t then something’s funny and I don’t mean comical.
Psychics have been contacted and tried to help, but Kaila still hasn’t been found. Her Facebook missing page has been silent for years and there’s no mention of her on social media. It’s like the community has forgotten about her.
Y’all know I’m not into speculation, but I would like to give a few theories I have. What if Butch is just a creeper and she was kidnapped in a dark-colored vehicle. Butch would have heard a struggle, but he says he didn’t hear anything unusual. So that doesn’t really line up. Also, none of her friends or family members drove a vehicle like that, so she would have driven herself.
What confuses me is if Butch was molesting her why would she go over there when her mom wasn’t home? Especially with her out of state! Labriska said that Bonnie and Trey had been to her house with Kaila, but she never brought Butch. Why? Was it because he was molesting her? Or did she find out about the porn?
Some have speculated online that Butch behaved inappropriately on the evening of September 17th and she was rummaging for her cellphone or keys to try to get help. Then there was a struggle and he could barely understand her, which is why he said that to police in regards to when she left. He killed her, possibly by accident, and then drove to that secluded property and buried her. Which is on the way to Labriska’s home.
There’s also a large pond near that house at 181 Golding Road that has a dirt road leading to it. Have police looked there? Was it there in 2009? People dig ponds every day so it’s not unusual to not see one when you’re going to town one day, but there is one a few days later.
I pray that her family gets answers, they’ve waited a long time, and I believe this case is solvable if someone would come forward. I believe someone knows what happened and where she is. Maybe they don’t know that they know something. Maybe they saw a truck or SUV in the middle of nowhere and didn’t think anything of it. It’s still worth checking into in my opinion.
If you know anything, please contact the Columbus Police Department, I will put their phone number in the description.
Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode! If you enjoyed it, please share this podcast with your friends and leave a review on Apple podcasts or Goodpods. If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me at Aeryn@Southern-Macabre.com, message me on Facebook, or DM me on Twitter.
I hope y’all have a fantastic week and I will talk to y’all again on Wednesday. God bless, y’all!