On a breezy October day in 1999, thirty-four-year-old Teresa Davidson loaded up her car with her teenage daughter, Jessica, and items for a sleepover. She said goodbye to her husband, Richard Murphy, before the two girls headed to his cousin’s house to drop off Jessica, who was staying over there for several nights with a friend.
Jessica grabbed her bags when they pulled in the driveway. A hug, a kiss, then out the door – never to see her mother again.
“Whatever is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Teresa Ann Davidson-Murphy was born on May 15, 1965.
“She was a good, good girl,” her mother, Evon Reisch, remembers.
Teresa’s mother remarried when she was three, and she suddenly became a sister to six step-siblings. Evon says Teresa originally scoffed at the idea of babysitting her brothers and sisters, but her personality changed drastically as she grew up, married, and gave birth to her first child – a little boy named Justin. She later gave birth to a baby girl whom she named Jessica. Teresa had blossomed into a tall, willowy woman with billowing brown curls surrounding a dimpled smile, who doted endlessly over her children.
“The way she raised those two kids of hers – she was an excellent mother,” Evon describes fondly.
Evon, who was living in California at the time, was notified days after her daughter went missing, but was under the impression that Richard Murphy had already contacted police. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that she found out her daughter was two months’ late on her house payment, and a real estate agent – who had been helping Teresa with selling her house – called and mentioned communication with her had stopped.
Julie Riesch, Teresa’s sister-in-law, promptly went to the police station on October 23 to discuss Teresa’s case. The family quickly realized this was the first time authorities were notified of the mother’s disappearance – sixteen days after she was last seen alive.
“Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
so he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
all the days of her life.”
~ Proverbs 31:10-12
“I knew Terry since she was 13 years old,” says Steven Colpitts, her first husband and father of her children.
Steven recalls being a nineteen-year-old kid cleaning his truck outside when a beautiful brunette on a horse came riding up to him. She was thirteen – too young – so he stayed away, but she would come in to the Denny’s where he worked every night to see him. The two eventually began dating – going on horseback rides together, and once getting in trouble by staying out until four in the morning when their four-wheelers got stuck (they’d told their parents they were seeing a movie).
Teresa and Steven married in 1982, and the births of their two children soon followed. Steven worked while Teresa stayed home with the kids.
“Terry was a mom who took care of her kids very, very well. She would do anything for her kids.”
The love they had for each other slowly grew apart, however, and the two divorced in 1992. Teresa took the kids to Florida at first, before moving around the country and settling in Oregon.
Nearly seven years later, he received a call from his daughter, asking if she can come live with him.
“Mom’s not here. She hasn’t been here in days.”
Steven immediately drove to Rainier from his home in Klamath Falls, Oregon – a six hour drive north through Portland – and picked up his daughter.
Within a couple of weeks, detectives would show up at his door, but as the days and months passed, police would not reveal anything they found out.
Steven reminisces about the times he and Teresa had together, chuckles at the day they rode on a horse with no saddle, and pokes fun of himself at being a short, blonde man with a beautiful lady who towered over him (“She was too damn tall,” he laughs). He begins to tear up at the end of our conversation.
“I wish [their] mom would walk through that door every day. I’ve got to stop looking for her in my mind. The disbelief – the bewilderment of it all. How does this happen? What do you tell your thirteen-year-old daughter where her mom is when she’s looking out the window?”
Teresa and her two children eventually made their home in Covington, Washington. She found a career with Boeing that she immediately became passionate about, and made plenty of friends in the area.
It was there that she met her second husband, Richard Murphy, whom she married on July 3, 1998. The newly blended family of four quickly split into different directions after Richard decided he wanted to move to Rainier, Oregon to be near his family. Teresa and her daughter, Jessica, accompanied him, but Justin left to move in with their biological father in Klamath Falls.
The marriage would last just over a year before her disappearance.
“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
The seemingly mundane details of October 7, 1999, and the days following would later be scrutinized and combed through for the next twenty years. What – or who – would cause a healthy, happy mother of two to vanish mysteriously?
Jessica remembers the peculiar weekend spent with her friend at her stepdad’s cousin’s house. She had just turned thirteen the week before. What was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover turned into confusion and abandonment.
“Thursday, October 7th, 1999, my mom took me to Richard’s cousin’s house to drop me off so I could go to a volleyball game. I talked to her Saturday and she sounded okay, but not like herself,” Jessica recalls.
Sunday came and went with no contact from her mother. After Teresa failed to arrive to bring her back home, Jessica tried desperately to call her stepfather, who didn’t answer the phone for days. When he finally answered the phone approximately a week later, he explained he’d been on a camping trip by himself.
“He worked for construction and pest control, so he had a van that was never clean. When he picked me up, his van was spotless,” Jessica says in retrospect. “I remember him telling me bad things about my mom, like she was doing drugs. He told me he didn’t know where she was or when she would get back.”
After returning to their home, Richard convinced her that he had tried calling all of the local hospitals and police stations. He’d done everything he could, he told her. Teresa’s truck was still parked at the house with the keys in the ignition.
Jessica quickly phoned her father to take her to his house.
She noticed something else, along with the fact that her stepfather’s van was unusually immaculate: his camping gear had not been touched.
Police would later discover that Teresa’s gun, a 1991 semi-automatic Colt .45 that was given to her by her father, had also mysteriously vanished.
Barely a teenager at the time, Jessica was never informed of the details of the case.
“I don’t know how it went because no one called or even told me anything. I don’t even know if they went out with dogs or anything.”
When she requested to take her mother’s things from the house, Richard refused, explaining that she may come back, so there was no need to remove anything. A month later, however, Richard allegedly began dating another woman and took all of Teresa’s items to a storage unit. The unit was allegedly never paid, and was ultimately auctioned off.
“I miss my mom so much,” says Jessica. “We were close; she was my best friend, and I’m still lost without her.”
Where is Teresa Davidson? What happened the weekend of October 8, 1999? Did Teresa, a mother whose world revolved around her children, take off on foot or hitch a ride with someone to start a new life? Was she kidnapped from her home after Richard left for his camping trip?
Or did something much, much worse occur?
Teresa has not been seen since the night she drove her daughter to her sleepover. Her vehicle and other belongings had been left behind. No financial activity nor any contact with her family or friends has occurred in twenty years.
Jessica – the spitting image of her mother – is now married with children of her own. She, along with the rest of her family, have never stopped looking for Teresa. Twenty long years have passed – the anniversary is in just eight months – with no sign of the beautiful, slender mother of two with long brown curls framing her face. Every October 7th has passed without any more answers than in 1999.
Teresa remains on the Oregon State Police website as #186 out of the alphabetized 1,042 listed missing people in the state. When contacted, the Oregon State Police politely declined to comment, explaining they do not give statements on open cases.
However, there is hope.
“They recently found a gun in the Columbia River,” Evon Reisch informed me at the end of our phone call. “A fisherman found it.”
“I am not sure what to say about that,” Jessica says. “All I know is that one was found. It may have nothing to do with the case – that’s why it’s being processed.”
The Columbia River runs adjacently northeast of the city of Rainier. Whether or not this discovery brings the police any closer to justice, Teresa’s children will continue to live their lives like she did, leaving a lasting legacy for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“They came out really good kids for the circumstances that came out of their life,” Steven Richardson lovingly describes.
Jessica has a final message for her mother, wherever she may be:
“I love and miss her and will never give up on finding her…and someone knows something. The truth always comes out. The worst part besides her not being here is not knowing.”
If you have any information about the whereabouts of Teresa, please contact the Oregon State Police Department at 503-731-3020. Someone knows something.