PROVO The family of Kiplyn Davis and the families of her accused killers left the courtroom crying both sides calling the five-day preliminary hearing a success.
For Christopher Jeppson and his attorneys, it meant the judge finally heard what they called the holes in the prosection's evidence that attempts to link Jeppson to the death of 15-year-old Kiplyn.
"It was only enough to get over the lowest hurdle known to law," defense attorney Scott C. Williams said after the hearing. "There is absolutely no way Chris Jeppson could be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt (by a jury) given the state's case."
The Davis family said they see the judge's decision as another step to bringing their daughter home and finding closure as a family.
"We made another hurdle and Kiplyn's smiling," father Richard Davis said, with his arm around his wife, Tamara. "We'll continue to fight, we'll continue to keep our porch light on."
But Tuesday's bind-over after five days of testimony a ruling that sends Jeppson and co-defendant Timmy Brent Olsen to trial isn't the end of this 13-year-old saga. It's just the beginning of a different chapter.
"We were confident going to prelim, we're more confident now," Williams said after the hearing, adding that there might not even be a trial for his client.
After the ruling, 4th District Judge Lynn Davis told the attorneys the evidence was far more substantial for Olsen, who allegedly confessed to numerous people that he had killed Kiplyn and disposed of her body.
"The evidence supporting the charge against Timmy Brent Olsen is far more compelling than the evidence supporting that against Christopher Neal Jeppson," Judge Davis said. "This court would find that the evidence relative to Christopher Neal Jeppson is far closer to groundless and improvident."
Judge Davis bound the two over but ruled that a sentence in Jeppson's charging document related to a previous crime, such as rape or kidnapping, should be taken out because there was no evidence supporting it.
The two sides agreed to meet Jan. 30 to discuss whether a trial will be rushed into, given that Olsen had previously requested a speedy trial, or whether he will waive that, giving both defense teams more time to prepare.
The lengthy hearing ended Tuesday afternoon with closing arguments. Prosecutor Mariane O'Bryant argued that the case, though circumstantial and difficult, should continue, even without forensic evidence.
"There's been some talk that there's no body," she said. "The fact that there's no body is actually evidence in this case for the reason that bodies don't hide themselves."
Kiplyn Davis had a lot going for her on May 2, 1995, O'Bryant recounted. She was in her school play, helping to plan her big sister's wedding and planning a drastic haircut. There was no reason she would have willingly left or committed suicide and even if she had, her body would have been found after 13 years and many searches.
But Williams countered that just because Jeppson was Kiplyn's friend, and prosecutors can't account for every hour of his day, it doesn't mean the court can infer that Jeppson killed her.
"While inferences must be drawn in favor of the state, inferences ... may only be drawn from known facts, not from speculation," he said.
And even if Jeppson's story changed slightly over the years, he has always been willing to submit to interviews with police and investigators, Williams said.
Judge Davis commented that it's the most interesting case he's heard, in terms of discrepancies and changing stories.
"The court can and does take into account everything I have heard from some 18 witnesses," Judge Davis said. "Ultimately the court must ask itself, does the evidence support the state's reasonable belief that each defendant committed first-degree murder, or is the charge groundless and improvident? Some (evidence) can be considered globally, but this court cannot engage in any type of speculation. Reasonable belief does not involve speculation. (And) more is unknown than known."
Defense attorney Dana Facemyer, who represents Olsen, argued that his client made the majority of his statements to witnesses while intoxicated and that several of those witnesses later admitted to lying.He closed by asking that the court not bind the case over: "That doesn't mean at a future time, with more solid evidence to present to the court, (prosecutors) couldn't return to this issue with evidence appropriate for a bind-over on a person who is involved in this case."