Kylr Yust, a 29-year-old Kansas City man authorities suspected in the disappearances of two Cass County women nearly a decade apart, pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abandonment of a corpse on Tuesday at the Cass County Justice Center in Harrisonville.
The charges were filed Oct. 5, six months after a mushroom hunter found two sets of human bones in a wooded area south of Belton in rural Cass County. The first set of remains was identified in April as 21-year-old Jessica Runions, of Raymore, who was last seen leaving a party with Yust in Sept. 8, 2016. Then in August, the Cass County sheriff’s office announced that the second set of bones had been identified as Kara Kopetsky, a 17-year-old from Belton who disappeared May 4, 2007, days after Kopetsky had received an order of protection against Yust, her ex-boyfriend.
Yust was represented by a public defender and led in and out of the Cass County courtroom by three deputies.
Yust answered in “yes sir” and nodded his head as the judge asked him if he understood the charges and range of punishment, if convicted.
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After the arraignment, family members of Kopetsky and Runions embraced and were led into the prosecutor’s office.
Cass County Prosecutor Ben Butler, facing a group of reporters at his main office door, declined to comment on the case.
According to a probable cause statement, at least four people over the years told investigators that Yust confessed to them that he choked Kopetsky until she stopped breathing.
After Runions was reported missing, a witness told police on Sept. 10, 2016 he was with Yust, and that Yust told him that he strangled and killed Runions and that “she was gone.” The witness said he was with Yust when he allegedly set Runions’s vehicle on fire in the area of 95th street and Blue River Road in Kansas City.
After police found Runions’s vehicle in September 2016, Yust was charged with in Jackson County Circuit Court with burning the vehicle. That charge was dismissed on Oct. 6 in Jackson County, and Yust was transferred from the Jackson County Detention Center to the Cass County jail to face the murder charges.
Following the arraignment Tuesday, John Runions, father of Jessica Runions, spoke briefly with reporters outside the Cass County Justice Center.
“I’m just ready to get this thing over with,” he said before leaving.
The case against Yust now remains pending in Cass County Circuit Court. A case review is scheduled 9 a.m. Dec. 28.