October 8, 2009 10:11:00 AM
Jason Browne - [email protected]
Nine days short of a month since Kaila Morris disappeared from her Lowndes County home, officials still are waiting for a break in the case.
New leads are coming to light, but not much has changed, according to Lt. Tony Perkins, an investigator with the Lowndes County Sheriff''s Office.
The missing-person investigation remains localized to Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Alabama.
And the Saturday arrest of Morris'' stepfather, Robert Triplett, 56, of 181 Golding Road in Columbus, on child pornography charges, has not changed the direction of the investigation, Perkins said.
"We''re still trying to eliminate everybody (as a suspect) and we haven''t been able to do that yet," said Perkins. "Of course, (Triplett) was a concern to start with because of his past and the fact that he was the last person to see (Kaila) alive, but at this point he''s still not a suspect. We don''t have anything to go on either way."
Triplett was convicted of sex crimes in Covington, La. in 1997 and in Jackson County in 2003.
The LCSO is working in concert with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Columbus Police Department, though Perkins declined to comment on the scope of those agencies'' involvement.
Meanwhile, friends of Morris'' are left to wonder what happened.
LaBriska Walker, 22, has been close friends with Morris since the 10th grade when the two shared classes at Columbus High School.
Triplett said Morris had plans to visit Walker and her 11-month-old son, to whom Morris served as godmother, in Carrollton, Ala.
He also reported to authorities Morris had left their 181 Golding Road home Sept. 17 with unknown persons in a dark-colored van.
Walker said Morris didn''t keep friendships or plans to herself nor did Morris allow many people to drive her anywhere.
"We shared everything. I''d be pretty surprised (if Morris had unknown friends)," said Walker. "She likes to drive herself around. She''s a very conscientious driver. I don''t know very many people she would let drive her."
Walker knows of only a few people with whom Morris felt comfortable riding.
Despite recent revelations about Triplett''s criminal history, Walker, who lived with the family at one point while the girls were in high school, said Morris and Triplett had a good relationship.
"I''ve seen the paper and the news. There was nothing to say anything like that was under the surface. It surprised the hell out of me," said Walker.
Walker, who has no theories on Morris'' disappearance, is frustrated at the lack of progress on the investigation.
"I just want people to say something or give up some kind of information. Somebody has to know something," said Walker.
Kristy Brown, manager at The Cookie Store in Leigh Mall where Morris worked, also expressed her confusion with the story given by Triplett of Morris'' disappearance.
Brown describes Morris as a quiet person who would only open up to someone she knew well.
"She didn''t party. She went to school, was with her mom or was at work," said Brown. "If she had another group of friends, she kept it a secret very well."
She says Kaila never mentioned experiencing problems with Triplett. Though Brown did recall a brief conversation approximately four months ago in which Morris mentioned Triplett had lost his job due to "something on his background that didn''t make sense."
"He had lost his job and they were going to fight it," Brown recalled.
Both Walker and Brown were interviewed by the LCSO following Morris'' disappearance.
Morris'' family, including her mother, Bonnie Morris Triplett, has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to her location.