29 Years After the Disappearance of Kiplyn Davis,the Davis Family Offers Insights for Navigating Grief

The Richard and Tamara Davis family is no stranger to grief. May 2 of this year marks the 29th anniversary of their daughter, Kiplyn’s, disappearance from Spanish Fork High School. She was just 15 years old and had her whole life ahead of her. When she left for school that morning, her family had no idea it was the last time they would see her. 

In 2011, a classmate named Timmy Olsen was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in Kiplyn’s case. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but has never revealed the location of Kiplyn’s body or the names of his accomplices. As a result, the family has never experienced the relief of closure. 

Despite the unimaginable pain of their loss, the Davis family has found significant healing and hope along the way. They want other members of the community to know that tragedy isn’t the end, even if it feels like it. 

When dealing with the searing pain of grief, Richard wants people to know it’s OK to feel lost. He says, “Sometimes a person has to sit down and analyze his life and say ‘OK, where do I go? How do I get through this?’ And then you get up and you do it. You have to go back out and stay busy and fight this.” 

The Davises are no strangers to staying busy and reaching out to others. They try to stay involved in the community and give support, advice, and comfort whenever they can. Every year on December 6 at 7 p.m, Tamara and Richard Davis host a Christmas Angel Box Vigil near Kiplyn’s memorial in the Spanish Fork cemetery. The event is dedicated to families who have lost children. 

Kiplyn Davis, 1995.
Kiplyn Davis, 1995.

The Davis family invites community members to attend this annual memorial in honor of the littlest members of the community who have passed away or are missing. There is typically a speaker, one or more musical numbers, and a candlelight vigil. Those in attendance also receive carnations, which are revered as a symbol of purity. The event holds a special place in Tamara’s heart. 

“They have these angel boxes all over the world now … all  over the world, at the same time, people are having these memorials,” she said.

Supporting other families who are grieving the loss of a child helps the Davis family remain positive. Richard has spoken at many events telling his family’s story about how they have found the strength to persevere through the pain. 

Recently, Richard has kept himself busy writing a book about Kiplyn’s life and how the Davis family has found a way to cope with her loss. The book is currently going through the editing process and will eventually be published by J-Mart Publishing (located at 280 N. Main Street in Spanish Fork). Richard hopes it will be ready for purchase before Christmas and will bring hope to families who are trying to navigate grief. 

Karissa Lords, Kiplyn’s younger sister, was just 9 years old when Kiplyn disappeared. The two were very close and shared a bedroom. 

“That first night was the hardest night ever. I woke up and she wasn’t there,” Lords said.

Lords has found healing by talking to a professional who helps her process what she’s been through. She also honors Kiplyn’s memory by reaching out to others who have lost loved ones. She does this through running a Facebook page titled “Find Kiplyn Davis” where she shares memories of her sister and offers support to other families impacted by loss. She encourages everyone to wear blue (Kiplyn’s favorite color) on May 2, which has been lovingly dubbed “Kiplyn’s Day.” 

When it comes to overcoming grief, the Davis family says that family love and community support are essential. They also credit their religious beliefs for helping them get through. 

“We’re a religious family, thank goodness. If we weren’t, we’d be in trouble,” Richard passionately states. 

Until they’re able to bring Kiplyn’s body home and have her funeral service, there will always be a weight pressing on the Davis family’s shoulders. They plead with anyone who might know where Kiplyn’s body is to reach out to them so they can finally bring her home. 

In the meantime, they seek to keep Kiplyn’s memory alive by remembering her in a positive light. Richard recalls some of his favorite “Kiplynisms,” which include the following quotes:

 “Sunrises are the best,” “Learn to dance in the rain,” “The number one person in this life is you,” and “You can’t take care of other people unless you take care of yourself first, so love yourself first.” 

Someone once asked Kiplyn, “If you could be anybody in this world, who would you be?” She is said to have responded with, “I’d like to be me. I can’t think of anybody I’d rather be than myself.” 

In reference to his daughter’s unfailing self-love and optimism for life, Richard lovin gly states, “That’s who Kiplyn is.” 

The Davis family is very appreciative of everything the Spanish Fork community has done for their family. From sharing tears and hugs to spending months looking for Kiplyn’s body when she was first missing, the community support has been overwhelming and has helped the family get through. 

“How do you pay back a community that does that?” Richard said. “We want to try to pay it back. If somebody needs help with their tragedies, we’re here for them. All we’re here for is to serve.”

He encourages anyone who needs help getting through grief to reach out to him and other community members for help. He also invites them to live like Kiplyn and “get up in the morning and look at every sunrise with a smile on your face and then go out and conquer the world.”  

Shellie Peterson
Shellie Petersonhttp://Ewritingstudio.com
Shellie Peterson is a mom, wife and freelance writer. She currently lives in Santaquin with her husband and daughter. In her spare time, she loves to sing, read, write and spend as much time as possible camping.

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