PROVO — There's no forensic evidence that Spanish Fork teenager Kiplyn Davis is dead — only the painful assumption by her family members, police and prosecutors.
But attorneys for two men charged with her death argue the prosecution cannot be based on assumptions, and both have requested the murder cases be dismissed.
Davis, 15, disappeared from Spanish Fork High School on May 2, 1995, after being seen with some friends and never returned.
In motions filed recently in 4th District Court, attorneys Scott C. Williams and Jeremy Delicino, who represent Christopher Neal Jeppson and Timmy Brent Olsen respectively, argue that statements made by their clients can't be the only evidence and that without a body to corroborate the alleged crime, the cases should be thrown out.
"They have circumstantial evidence that (Davis) is dead because she's never been seen again," Williams said. "Even if we accept that, we have no evidence as to how (she died). So they're going to take this supposed joking statement (from Jeppson) and use that as their theory. Corpus denies that."
Corpus delicti is a Latin term meaning, in essence, "Show me the body." It was designed to protect individuals from conviction on their confessions alone.
In a murder case, for example, there had to be a body, or evidence of a murder, before an alleged confession of murder could be accepted. That helped protect against extorted or coerced confessions.
Williams points out the state has no body, no DNA samples — only two "statements" Jeppson allegedly made jokingly to a now ex-wife and a now ex-girlfriend about Kiplyn's death.
But even without the forensic evidence, prosecutor Mariane O'Bryant believes their case is strong.
"(Davis) had no history of drug abuse or running away, she had no money with her, no credit cards, no experience in taking care of herself," O'Bryant said. "She didn't have a driver's license, didn't have a car. Essentially the only logical thing left is that something bad happened to her."
Those details, combined with what O'Bryant calls the "confessions" of both Olsen and Jeppson, plus their inability to account for several hours on the day in question, are enough, O'Bryant said.
However, since 1995 when Davis disappeared, the corpus delicti rule has been updated to the trustworthiness standard.
The defendants are allowed to use either standard, and Delicino has outlined the state's requirements for the new standard in their prosecution of Olsen.
"If the government uses the defendant's admissions to prove an element of the crime that can't otherwise be adequately proven, then the defendant's statement must be corroborated," he wrote in his motion.
Olsen allegedly told numerous people he killed Davis; however, he has given several different locations throughout the county for her burial spot, making corroboration difficult.
Delicino also included in his motion details that some courts have ruled multiple statements don't determine or increase culpability, which resonates with Olsen's case.
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