What happened to Kaila Morris?
October 2, 2009 9:46:00 AM
So shy, Kaila Morris avoided “crowds” of more than two or three people.
So cautious, she would lock the door behind her stepbrother, with whom she shared a condominium in Starkville, when he would leave their residence to walk a very short distance to their mailbox.
And now the family of Morris, 21, is asking what happened to her after she left her family home, got into a vehicle with someone — despite her penchant for only driving herself — without her wallet, purse, identification or medication, and vanished.
Morris, an employee of The Cookie Store in Leigh Mall and part-time student at Mississippi State University, has been missing since Sept. 17. Her family is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone with information about Morris’ location.
“Kaila is shy,” said her mother, Bonnie Williams Morris Triplett, who said she was vacationing in Florida the night her daughter was last seen. “She has a hard time opening up to new people, but once she gets to know you, she’s as loyal as they come.”
Triplett called her daughter a “homebody” and “voracious reader.”
“She’s a kind soul,” she said. “She likes to help others that are in trouble. She loves her (English bulldog) Tonka, her (step) brother, sunsets and the beach.”
Morris also loved her best friend, Labriska Walker, and Walker’s 11-month-old son, to whom she was named godmother.
On the evening of Sept. 17, Morris’ stepfather, Robert “Butch” Triplett Jr., was in his bathroom, near the garage to the family’s ranch-style home off quiet, remote Golding Road, when he heard a vehicle on the gravel driveway approaching the house.
Butch Triplett said his stepdaughter called into the house to tell him her plans and with whom she was leaving, but he couldn’t hear well and didn’t understand everything she said.
“She said she was going to do something I didn’t understand and then she was going to see Labriska and the baby,” he recalled. “I really didn’t think anything of it. That was something normal for her to do. She commonly goes out there and comes back in the wee hours of the morning.”
About 15 minutes after Morris left, Labriska Walker arrived at the Triplett home, looking for Morris, Butch Triplett said, noting Walker wasn’t expecting Morris at her home in Carrollton, Ala., but the two visited each other several times a week, often arriving unannounced.
“I was surprised they were here,” he said, referring to Walker and her son.
Neither Walker nor the Tripletts have cell phone reception at their homes and Morris and Walker did not call each other about the visit.
The family became concerned about Morris’ whereabouts the next afternoon after Bonnie Triplett, still in Florida, chatted with Walker on Walker’s Facebook page.
“It wasn’t until sometime that afternoon, I told Bonnie Kaila was at Labriska’s,” Butch Triplett explained. “Bonnie and Labriska (later) were on Facebook and (Labriska) told her Kaila didn’t show up.”
“I (told Labriska on Facebook) it was a long stay at your house and unusual for (Kaila) not to come back and get Tonka,” Bonnie Triplett remembered. “Right then, we both knew something was wrong.”
About 8 p.m. Sept. 18, Butch Triplett reported Morris missing to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.
The LCSO, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies, with assistance from the Columbus Police Department and authorities in nearby counties, have been investigating Morris’ disappearance, but so far have not released any information.
Morris left her family’s home, which she frequently visited, in a dark-colored van or sport utility vehicle, said Butch Triplett, who did not see the driver or any other passengers.
“I didn’t see them until they were backing up (to near the garage of the house),” he said, noting Morris’ white SUV was parked in front of the garage, which was next to the bathroom he occupied when she left. “I heard someone drive up. I heard someone talking, but I couldn’t distinguish the voice (or whether it was male or female). It sounded like a normal conversation; it didn’t sound like anyone was yelling and screaming. I didn’t understand (what she told me) and I’ve kicked myself, I don’t know how many times, since I didn’t get more information.”
Butch Triplett said he last saw Morris “digging in the right passenger side of her” vehicle, when he went into the bathroom.
Morris’ purse later was found in her vehicle, still parked at the Tripletts’ home, and her wallet was in the house; her cellphone was not recovered, so the family assumes she took it with her.
Additionally, Morris, who suffered the deaths of several close relatives from 2002 to 2007, left behind her anti-depression medication, which she took every day before bedtime, Bonnie Triplett said.
“She had a depression problem,” Morris’ mother said, noting she had a “hard time dealing” with the deaths and saw a psychiatrist.
“She was pretty regular with it,” she added, explaining Morris became irritable and wanted to sleep a lot, if off her medication for several days. “She wasn’t planning on being gone long or she would’ve taken her medication.”
“Kaila was so shy, some people thought she was standoffish and unapproachable,” Bonnie Triplett said. “She was so shy around any new person, she wouldn’t talk.”
“She had some people she opened up to more, but it really just took her (a while),” said Morris’ step-brother, Trey. “Once you got her talking, you can’t get her to stop. But getting her talking is the hardest part.”
“There’s no reason for her to run away,” said Bonnie Triplett, noting Morris owned the condo in Starkville and loved it.
“She had her own place to get away to,” said Morris’ stepbrother, Trey. “It was her own place. She had it the way she wanted it. ‘I love living in Starkville, because you can wear pajamas everywhere’ was her favorite quote. She said that all the time.
“She was not one of those people to walk out of the house with nothing,” he added.
“Usually, when she made the trip to my house, she was in her car,” added Walker, to whom Morris had only taken her mother and step-brother to visit at her home.
“Labriska was planning to move closer to Columbus,” Bonnie Triplett said. “(Kaila) was thrilled Labriska would be so close to her. They were excited about furniture shopping. That was forefront in her mind, how close Labriska would be to her.”
Morris also had plans to babysit for her boss at The Cookie Store, to whom she was a close friend, on Sept. 20, Bonnie Triplett noted.
“She’s very close to her family,” Morris’ mother said. “She is never out of contact with her family. I would talk to her three or four times a day over the phone (or) Facebook. She loved her little job at The Cookie Store. She didn’t have any enemies.
“I can’t think of anybody that would hurt her,” she added, noting Morris had “one ex-boyfriend” with whom she “had problems” but police “ruled him out as a suspect.”
“There have been no leads, no sightings, no pings on her cellphone,” she said, explaining calls to Morris’ cellphone go straight to voicemail and her voicemail box now is full. “She loves animals. She loves to watch the deer and turkeys play around in our yard. She would’ve never left and not come back for Tonka.”
Morris is 5 feet, six inches tall and weighs about 230 pounds; she has a rose tattoo on a left toe, a tattoo of a white and gray wolf head on her right hip and a star and moon tattoo on her lower back.
She has “extremely pale skin” and thick, waist-length dark hair with blond highlights, which she wears “pulled back most of the time,” her mother said, adding Morris’ eyes “change colors” and generally are green or gray.
Morris’ father, Andy Morris, died of leukemia in 2002.
“She was always so cautious,” Butch Triplett said of Morris. “We can’t imagine her leaving with anybody she didn’t know well. 99 percent of the time, if she knew how (her friends and family members) drove, she drove. They’d have left in her car, because she’s a cautious driver.”
Kristin Mamrack is a staff reporter for The Commercial Dispatch.http://www.cdispatch.com/news/article.asp?aid=3139#