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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Richard Davis, the father of Kiplyn Davis, after the sentencing of Christopher Neal Jeppson. Davis said he had hoped for a longer sentence.

Christopher Neal Jeppson earned five years in federal prison Friday for his refusal to honestly answer one simple question: "Where were you on the night Kiplyn Davis disappeared?"

During a sentencing hearing in federal court, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell said nothing is more fundamental in a murder investigation than asking someone where they were on the day in question.

"There's nothing more basic than asking, 'where were you that night?"' Campbell said.

Instead, Jeppson chose to give investigators a false alibi, which he stood by for years. But it failed to convince a jury, which convicted him of perjury.

Davis, 15, vanished from Spanish Fork High School on May 2, 1995. For the next 10 years, authorities say, a conspiracy of silence and intimidation obscured the truth about her disappearance. Pieced together from witness statements, investigators gleaned that Davis was kidnapped, raped and murdered. Her body was then buried in a secret location.

Investigators say Jeppson told them he, along with friends Timmy Brent Olsen and David Rucker Leifson, spent that evening in the Spanish Fork High auditorium throwing a football and setting up for a school play. The problem was there was no school play scheduled to begin and a community choir was practicing that night, none of whom saw the trio there.

Olsen and Leifson are already serving prison terms for lying about what they know in the case. Olsen, who was found guilty by a federal jury, is serving a 12-year sentence while Leifson, who accepted a plea deal, is serving four years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Benson said that to this day Jeppson has not told the truth about where he was that night. "The truth is the truth, and none of this adds up," Benson said in court. "This involves the ultimate crime, murder."

In a lengthy exploration of the law and testimony, Jeppson's attorney, Scott Williams, argued against a cross-reference enhancement to murder.

Under the law, a perjury sentence may be enhanced if the lies told interfered with the investigation of serious crimes. In this case, that would be murder and kidnapping.

Olsen and Leifson received such enhancements, Olsen appealed his sentence to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the enhancement. Campbell said she found the same reasoning for Jeppson.

Williams said his client was a "simple man" who "strives to do good for people." Campbell noted Jeppson's dedication to his family and job. However, lying under oath in a grand jury investigation into murder is a serious offense.

Jeppson was sentenced to serve five years plus two years of probation after he is released.

Campbell also found that Olsen's role in perjury was much more serious due to leading investigators continually astray and also covering up his history of violence toward women. These factors made his sentence longer than Jeppson's.

Outside of court, the victim's father, Richard Davis, said he was hoping for more prison time but said of the three men, "They won't be getting out for a while."

Davis said he simply wants the truth about what happened to his daughter and vowed to continue to attend every hearing and proceeding until he gets answers. "Something terrible happened and they should have told the truth."

In addition to serving perjury sentences, both Jeppson and Olsen have both been charged in Davis' murder in state court.

Williams said it is likely he will appeal Jeppson's sentence to the 10th Circuit.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Esqueda said he could not deny that along with Olsen, Jeppson and Leifson, the truth about what really happened to Davis may also be sealed away behind bars. "That's the tragedy here," Esqueda said. "No amount of time is going to come to the truth."


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com