SPANISH FORK — When is a runaway not a runaway? In rare instances in the past, police have treated a missing teen as a runaway when that turned out not to be the case.
Richard and Tamara Davis knew immediately that something was seriously wrong the night their daughter Kiplyn didn't come home. But it took weeks to convince police to search for the 15-year-old. They say they missed out on time and opportunities that may have solved the case.
Kiplyn Davis disappeared from Spanish Fork High School on May 22, 1995. For more than 18 years, her family has wondered what happened to her.
"Her purse, her retainer, her makeup — all the things a girl would take with her were still in her locker," Richard Davis said.
While police suggested Kiplyn had run away, her parents believed otherwise.
"It wasn't like Kiplyn. It wasn't her nature," Richard said. "I knew she hadn't run away. I knew something drastic had happened to her."
The family said an FBI agent they knew volunteered to help, but police turned him down saying Kiplyn was just a runaway. Her family made their own missing posters and looked for days on end without sleep.
"Every time the phone would ring we would hope it was information about Kiplyn," Tamara Davis said.
"I was trying to find her," Richard said. "I was doing everything I could. I did crazy things, but I didn't care. I was trying to find my daughter."
It was weeks before police suspected foul play.
"I think it took three or four weeks before they finally decided: This is bigger. She isn't a runaway. She truly is missing," Richard said.
But the case went cold, leaving her family heartbroken.
"The feeling in my heart, it was like somebody had a hold of my heart and was squeezing it," Richard said. "I mean, how could I protect my daughter? She was in harm's way and I wasn't there to protect her."
For years, several of Kiplyn's classmates were suspected of being involved. In 2005, a decade after Kiplyn vanished, David Rucker Leifson, Christopher Neal Jeppson and Timmy Brent Olsen were indicted by a federal grand jury for hampering the investigation.
In 2011, Olsen pleaded guilty to second-degree felony manslaughter and is currently serving a 15-year sentence. To this day, all have remained silent about Kiplyn's disappearance.
Kiplyn's younger sister, Karissa, was only 9 years old when Kiplyn disappeared. She still struggles with not knowing what happened.
"When she disappeared, part of me was missing," Karissa said. "I'm not giving up hope, never. I'm not giving up hope. I know she's still out there. I just want her home. That's all I've ever wanted."
The Davises said they learned it's critical to push the police to get involved right away.
"Be demanding," Richard said. "I don't care if they are a runaway or not, they're still in harm's way. They're your daughter. They are your son. Demand it."
Richard and Tamara still hope someone, someday, will finally tell them where to find Kiplyn's remains.
"There's a lot of miracles out there," Richard said. "We hope there is still one for us, but we're never going to give up, never, never. We need to bring Kiplyn home, put her in her proper place, and then we will turn our porch light off."
The porch light at the Davis home has remained a symbol of hope for the family. It's remained on for more than 6,000 nights — the number of nights Kiplyn has been missing.