Houston friends disappear during trip to Austin; police seek tips
11/29/2016 12:08 pm PST
Two good friends plan to attend a concert in Austin, Texas. But that getaway would end in a troubling mystery.
What really happened to Sidney Taylor and Krislyn Gibson? It's a story that includes a night of heavy drinking -- a strip club -- a mystery third man and possibly murder.
It was supposed to be a fun road trip to the Urban Music Festival in Austin, Texas.
Houston friends Sidney Taylor and Krislyn Gibson headed to Austin for a weekend of partying and music in April. But just hours after arriving, the pair vanishes in the dark of night, leaving police baffled, two families in shock, and a blood-stained mystery that remains unsolved.
Sidney Taylor and Krislyn Gibson met in high school in northern Houston. The friends stayed in touch even as their lives drifted apart.
But Sidney and Krislyn met every year to attend a music festival in Austin together. Their plan this year was to carpool in Sidney's Dodge Charger and stay with a high school friend Jared Hemphill. But Hemphill works nights, so he calls his cousin Harvey Cyphers to show his friends a good time around town.
"Sidney Taylor and Harvey Cyphers knew each other for many years and by all the accounts they were friends and liked to hang out together," said Austin Police Detective Jay Swann.
A successful business owner and champion bodybuilder with a bit of a rap sheet, Cyphers is the life of the party. He takes the duo out for some R-rated fun at a strip club called the Landing Strip.
But as night turns to the wee hours, friend Jared Hemphill starts to worry. At 3 a.m., he calls Sidney Taylor to check in, but she brushes him off.
"That was the last contact that anyone had with either Sidney or Krislyn," said Det. Swann.
Back in Houston, Krislyn's father panics. His daughter never goes this long without contacting her son.
Within days Austin Police are involved, but they can't find a motive behind Sidney and Krislyn's sudden disappearance.
"The likelihood of them abandoning good jobs, homes and families to run off is very, very low," said Swann.
And tragically their assumptions prove true.
On April 5, only two days after the friends are reported missing, police discover Sidney's abandoned Dodge Charger back in midtown Houston, more than 160 miles away from where Sidney and Krislyn were last seen. The location of the vehicle leaves investigators wondering: Was it possible Sidney and Krislyn were more than just friends? Could they have run away together?
"There are several transportation hubs in that area, the thought had crossed my mind that maybe they had abandoned the car and boarded the bus," said Swann.
But Sidney's mother refuses to believe her son would voluntarily leave his family.
Soon, a bombshell. As forensics investigators process the car, they find evidence that points to a violent and possibly deadly encounter.
A pool of blood stains on the rear passenger floorboard and plastic sheeting stuffed inside the trunk is covered with dried blood and hair.
Detectives suspect Sidney Taylor and Krislyn Gibson may have been murdered.
"There have been no contact with friends, family, jobs," said Det. Swann. "You know, financial institutions, cellphone records, those types of things -- there has been no indication since that night that Sidney and Krislyn are alive."
And investigators soon uncover a startling visual of that exact night when Sidney and Krislyn were still alive. Surveillance video taken in the late hours at the Landing Strip shows the three friends arriving, then at the bar, and finally leaving together.
Cops zero in on the last known person to see Krislyn and Sidney: Harvey Cyphers.
"He laid down a very concrete timeline for us in the events of that evening. His statement was that they parted ways in the parking lot and he never saw them again," said Det. Swann.
But detectives are skeptical and eventually name Cyphers a person of interest.
Friend Jared Hemphill's call and text message places Cyphers with Sidney and Krislyn at 3 a.m., long after the Landing Strip closed. Could phone records uncover the truth?
"As we ordered Sidney and Krislyn's phone records, they came back and begin to tell us a little bit different story than the story Mr. Cyphers had originally told us," said Swann.
Police believe the records prove Sidney's phone was in the vicinity of Cyphers's Austin home at 3 a.m. Then chillingly, all three phones start traveling east toward Houston at 7:30 a.m.
In Houston, Cyphers's phone is tracked to an area near Sidney's abandoned Dodge. According to phone records, Cyphers makes several calls to a bus company, and then his phone alone travels the same route as a bus does between Houston and Austin at around 5 p.m.
A search warrant issued for Cyphers's home uncovers more evidence, including an April 3 receipt from Walmart with a laundry list of suspicious items. All detectives need to arrest and charge him is verification from the dna crime lab. But then, a stunning chain of events prevents this from happening. The police department shuts down the DNA testing lab.
Now in limbo with hundreds of other cases, it may be months before DNA evidence from the case is processed.
So far, Cyphers isn't talking. He sits in jail for an unrelated weapons charge, and has not been charged in connection with the couple's disappearance.
Family and detectives are left wondering why anyone would want to harm Sidney Taylor and Krislyn Gibson.