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Garthia Elena Burnett: Tried and convicted by public opinion

 

Garthia Elena Burnett

 

A family member describes Robert Warren Triplett Jr. as a loving father, who would never do anything to hurt Kaila Morris, whom he treated like his own daughter. 

 

In Pascagoula, Triplett coached peewee football, a former player said. 

 

While working community service in Louisiana for a simple assault conviction, Triplett''s son accompanied him to Habitat for Humanity workdays. 

 

The picture witnesses painted of Robert "Butch" Triplett last week was not that of a loving father or children''s coach. 

 

Sitting in a federal courtroom in Oxford, it sounded more like Triplett was on trial for the disappearance of Kaila Morris than possessing child pornography. 

 

Condemning testimony revealed Triplett had bound a woman in her home in Jackson County, with the intent to assault her. Prior to his current charges, he was on non-adjudicated probation from the 2003 attempted assault. 

 

As the story unraveled, each layer was more damaging than the preceding:

     

     

  • Triplett was the last person to see Kaila alive. 

     

  • A dirty shovel and ax were found at the Triplett home on Golding Road in Lowndes County, and freshly washed sheets -- Robert Triplett said he washed the sheets at Kaila''s request -- were retrieved from Kaila''s bed. 

     

  • Triplett noted to investigators an area in Pickens County on the way to Kaila''s friend, LaBriska Walker''s, house where a body could be dumped, if someone had done something to his stepdaughter. 

     

  • Triplett spent hours, "stuck in the mud," on a four-wheeler in Pickens County the day Kaila disappeared, checking on land owned by Kaila''s family. 

     

  • The last time Kaila used her cell phone was more than 24 hours before Triplett reported she left in a dark-colored vehicle. 

     

  • Triplett admitted to administering a massage to Kaila the night she disappeared. She took off her shirt, as she usually did, for him to massage her shoulders. He also massaged her upper thighs. 

     

    Triplett, in an orange prison jump suit, was silent and still during the hearing, unless approached by his attorney.

 

 

His wife, Bonnie Morris Triplett, sat in the courtroom accompanied by a private investigator and a local attorney.  

 

She scoffed at answers investigators gave for language in their affidavit for a search warrant, which enabled them to seize her family''s computers. The affidavit was vague, defense argued, never referring specifically to computers. 

 

Prosecution argued Triplett was a person of interest in the case, leading them to want to probe areas of the home they otherwise might not have. Additionally, computers could have stored information valuable to the investigation. 

 

Robert Triplett reported his stepdaughter missing, Friday, Sept. 18. He last saw her on Thursday, Sept. 17, he told detectives. His wife, who urged him to call authorities, was vacationing in Florida at the time. 

 

On Sept. 19, Triplett e-mailed me a photo of Kaila. The family wanted to reach out to the public for help finding her. 

 

"Please let us know if you need anything else," he wrote, as I spoke with his wife to get a description of her daughter. 

 

Kaila is about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, 230 pounds, with brownish blond hair, down to her waist in length, Bonnie Triplett told me. 

 

She has green-gray eyes and a rose tattoo on the first toe after the big toe; she also has a tattoo of a white and gray wolf head on her right hip and a star and moon tattoo on her lower back. 

 

Mom''s plea was simple: "Help us find her." 

 

Kaila Morris was supposed to visit LaBriska in Carrollton, Ala., but she never showed up, never called her family or LaBriska and hasn''t been seen since. 

 

"This isn''t like her at all," Bonnie Triplett was quick to respond, when asked if the behavior was out of the ordinary for her daughter. Though she was 21 and a student at Mississippi State, Kaila was shy and reserved, very close to her family and stayed in touch, always. 

 

Despite numerous news stories, posters all over the county and a $10,000 reward offer, there has been no sign of Kaila since September 2009. 

 

There have been no fresh leads in the case -- no new reasons to hope she''s alive and no evidence she is dead. 

 

"Her stepdad had something to do with it," Amy posted on The Dispatch website in April. 

 

"Once a sex offender [sic] always [sic] one," gailtempleton, posted in December 2009. 

 

"I have known Butch, his Mom and Dad and his siblings for 40 years..most of my adult life...and they''re a fine bunch of people," Richard posted, also in December. "In all the time I''ve known Butch, I''ve yet to see an ounce of meanness in him. He just doesn''t have it in him. Period. He could never hurt his stepdaughter. Ever." 

 

"Triplett pled not guilty. He leaves a trail of victims but is never guilty. The only reason Triplett is not associated with Kaila''s disappearance YET is because he did too good of a job of dumping her body," Keepus Informed commented, in December. 

 

In October 2009, after Triplett''s arrest on child pornography charges, Vickie Bolton, who identified herself as Triplett''s ex-wife, commented, "Have the law enforcement officers quit looking for Kaila because they think Robert Triplett, Jr., has had something to do with her disappearance? We DON''T [sic] know what happened to Kaila! ... His sexual past has nothing to do with Kaila''s disappearance." 

 

"He is a sicko !!!!! I believe he did something to her because she was gonna tell on him," sportsfan1 posted last week. 

 

Dispatch blogger searchingforjustice said last week, "I, being the mother of Kaila Morris, am outraged by the fact that we still have not been able to find out what has happened to her. ... I will never give up hope that one day soon she will be found," in response to bloggers chastising Bonnie Triplett. 

 

Despite the open-ended case, it seems Triplett is already convicted in the court of public opinion, with a few dissenting voices from family and friends hoping to vindicate him. 

 

Triplett is not on trial for the disappearance of Kaila Morris. 

 

And without a corpse or some new evidence, likely, no one ever will be. 

 

Garthia Elena Burnett is news editor for The Dispatch. E-mail reaches her at gburnett@cdispatch.com.

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment kat commented at 7/30/2010 7:52:00 PM:

first let me say- I don't know any of the people involved in this story. I only know what I have read in this newspaper - I am assuming it is truthful. What I do know , is that most of the time in cases like this, a family member or friend is involved. He knows SOMETHING-.......

 

Article Comment sassy commented at 7/30/2010 10:41:00 PM:

If HE isn't responsible for her disappearance, he knows who is.

 

Article Comment frank commented at 7/31/2010 4:08:00 PM:

"Sitting in a federal courtroom in Oxford, it sounded more like Triplett was on trial for the disappearance of Kaila Morris than possessing child pornography.

Condemning testimony revealed Triplett had bound a woman in her home in Jackson County, with the intent to assault her. Prior to his current charges, he was on non-adjudicated probation from the 2003 attempted assault."

Let's see here, he is on trial for child porn and already convicted on this other little attempted assault on a woman deal... Now why in the daylights would anybody think he had anything to do with his stepdaughter's disappearance? Well golly jeepers Garthia, I just don't know.

Earth to Dispatch ... What a waste of ink and electrons!

 

Article Comment richard commented at 8/2/2010 6:52:00 AM:

Thank you, Ms. Burnett, for the most even-handed coverage this man has gotten from your paper.

 

Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/2/2010 7:30:00 AM:

Hey Richard, get a clue. You don't know this person like you think you do. You know who he wanted you to know. Why don't you go look up the whole "Front Stage, Back Stage" concept in a psychology book and find yourself a clue.


If you look at the stats about kidnappings/murder you will see that about 75% of the time it is a family member committing the act. If you will look at sexual offenders you will see they don't cure well. This guy has a sexual offender past, and present, in the form of child porn. Given he was standing at "ground zero" around this poor girl, I think it is very reasonable for a person to be looking at him as the suspect regardless of having a body or not.

But if you're going to base your logic on the fact he once coached peewee football, well, there you go, he's a freaking saint.

And Birney, your paper looks silly enough as it is without letting that woman write in it too. Even a rose won't make her article smell better.

 

Article Comment doj commented at 8/2/2010 9:24:00 AM:

coltrain, (re richard) It's Sociology not Psychology. What was your degree from the W in - Basketweaving?

 

Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/2/2010 12:16:00 PM:

Actually, it is Psychology. It may well be mentioned in Sociology too, but I became aware of it through numerous Psychology classes. And for your info, I was almost a double major, and graduated with a 3.90 GPA. My "other degree" was Science based. The only two classes I took that might be considered "basket weaving" (which I think would be two words there Einstein) was golf for a PE class, and Environmental Geography.
I most certainly did not take the easy way out with an "Arts Degree."

But, you're probably use to being wrong by this point in your life, eh?

 

Article Comment doj commented at 8/2/2010 1:11:00 PM:

coltrain, I could state my degrees also, but I doubt that you would be able to pronounce them, much less understand what they are. In fairness to you, you avow that "Front Stage, Back Stage is Psychology. In fewer words than Walter ordinarily uses, PROVE IT!

 

Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/3/2010 8:25:00 AM:

I don't have to prove anything to you fool. It doesn't matter that much to me what you think. I really can't believe you'd be so stupid as to want to argue over such a moot point.

I can prove it hasn't been all that long ago when your relatives were swinging from trees. You're proof of it.

Now scamper back up into the canopy and tell the others what you learned during your time on the ground.

 

Article Comment doj commented at 8/3/2010 9:03:00 AM:

Coltrain, that is typical of you. When confronted,rather than give a definitive answer, you resort to the ad hominem falacy. You aren't worth the effort. Go play with somebody else with your mindset.

 

Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/3/2010 10:22:00 AM:

Typical? So in your head I'm suppose to sit here and what? Cut and paste a phrase from a Psych book? Meet you at the Dispatch and read it to you?

You're an idiot.

 

Article Comment doj commented at 8/3/2010 12:04:00 PM:

coltrain, one of the cardinal rules of debate is to be able to back up your points with fact. You haven't.

 

Article Comment sportsfan1 commented at 8/3/2010 9:57:00 PM:

He admitted to massageing and kissing here twice! Damn straight he knows something!!!!Washed her sheets!!!! Oh yeah he knows.......

 

Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/4/2010 7:40:00 AM:

doj, who told you I was debating? You can either accept what I said as I have no reason to lie about it, or you can go **** yourself. You pick.

Are there any more questions?

 

Article Comment marinewife commented at 8/14/2010 11:11:00 PM:

First of all, I want to say I have been following this since I found out Kaila went missing. I also want to say, I feel that the people working this case, are doing the best they can. We all have our opinions on what happend to Kaila, and who might be responsible. However, there is a constitution that law enforcement must abide by. So, this means they have to have evidence that Tripplet was responsible for what ever may have happend to Kaila. Having said that, this doesnt mean because the person we feel is guilty should be found guilty because of a dirty shovel and child porn on his computer. I have seen where people have started pointing fingers at Kaila's mother. HOW DARE YOU! All of us, who do not know anything about this other then what the news tells us, have no right pointing fingers at anyone. We know nothing about these people. As for roscoe and doj up there at the top, this is not for you to discuss your so called basket weaving degrees you recieved from which ever college you attended. Take the flaming elsewhere, most of us do not want to read your stupid comments.

 

Article Comment marinewife commented at 8/14/2010 11:12:00 PM:

First of all, I want to say I have been following this since I found out Kaila went missing. I also want to say, I feel that the people working this case, are doing the best they can. We all have our opinions on what happend to Kaila, and who might be responsible. However, there is a constitution that law enforcement must abide by. So, this means they have to have evidence that Tripplet was responsible for what ever may have happend to Kaila. Having said that, this doesnt mean because the person we feel is guilty should be found guilty because of a dirty shovel and child porn on his computer. I have seen where people have started pointing fingers at Kaila's mother. HOW DARE YOU! All of us, who do not know anything about this other then what the news tells us, have no right pointing fingers at anyone. We know nothing about these people. As for roscoe and doj up there at the top, this is not for you to discuss your so called basket weaving degrees you recieved from which ever college you attended.

 

Article Comment marinewife commented at 8/14/2010 11:14:00 PM:

First of all, I want to say I have been following this since I found out Kaila went missing. I also want to say, I feel that the people working this case, are doing the best they can. However, there is a constitution that law enforcement must abide by. So, this means they have to have evidence that Tripplet was responsible for what ever may have happend to Kaila. Having said that, this doesnt mean because the person we feel is guilty should be found guilty because of a dirty shovel and child porn on his computer. I have seen where people have started pointing fingers at Kaila's mother. HOW DARE YOU! All of us, who do not know anything about this other then what the news tells us, have no right pointing fingers at anyone. As for roscoe and doj up there at the top, this is not for you to discuss your so called basket weaving degrees you recieved from which ever college you attended.

 

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