Family and friends of Jessica Runions still don’t know where she is.
It’s been nearly five days since the 21-year-old Raymore woman was last seen leaving a gathering of friends in south Kansas City with a man who has been in extensive trouble with the law and who was questioned in the 2007 disappearance of his ex-girlfriend, Kara Kopetsky.
That man, Kylr Yust, 27, sits in a Benton County jail cell in Warsaw, Mo., about 100 miles southeast of Kansas City, on charges he “knowingly burned” Runions’ vehicle, which authorities found early Saturday.
Police have said little about Yust since Runions disappeared Thursday evening. Yet court records say plenty about a man who was raised by his grandparents and who has said in court documents that he started drinking alcohol at 11, first used cocaine at 14 and by the time he was 16 had tried heroin.
He also has said in court documents that he was sexually abused as a child and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Yust has been in and out of the court system on allegations of killing cats, abusing girlfriends and stealing from a tattoo parlor. He was arrested for that theft in 2010. A year later, he pleaded guilty to assault after choking a pregnant girlfriend.
In 2013 he was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison on a drug trafficking charge after he received a shipment of designer drugs from China. He didn’t serve the entire sentence and was released earlier this year.
On Sept. 2, Yust was ordered by the federal Bureau of Prisons to serve one weekend in confinement for an undisclosed probation violation. It’s unclear whether he responded to that order. Runions disappeared days later.
As Yust appeared before judges for these crimes, Belton police continued to work Kopetsky’s disappearance and kept tabs on him. He and Kopetsky had a “tumultous relationship,” according to Kara’s mother, and Kara, then 17, filed for an order of protection against him just days before she disappeared.
“I’ve visited him several times over the years, even when he was in jail,” said Lt. Brad Swanson, who has worked Kopetsky’s case for years. “I make sure he never forgets that I’m around.”
Now, Belton police are working with their Kansas City counterparts on another woman’s disappearance.
Kansas City police gave no update Monday on Runions’ case. They’ve said only that investigators have searched for her at multiple locations and come up with nothing.
Yust, who according to court documents has three children, is jailed on $50,000 bond, and Benton County dispatchers said they didn’t know when he would be transported to Jackson County. They referred all questions to authorities in Kansas City.
“I can’t comment because it’s been sealed,” said Michael Mansur, spokesman for Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.
Jamie S. Runions waits for any news about her daughter, turning to Facebook and posting more pictures of Jessica, including snapshots of mother and daughter, one with Jamie and all three daughters, and one with Jessica holding her youngest sister.
“I just want everyone who was with Jessica to talk to police,” Runions told The Star on Sunday. “We need to find her.”
Documents from the 2011 assault case contain disturbing details from Yust’s then-girlfriend, an 18-year-old woman he lived with.
She said he tried to choke her to death. The woman, who told Kansas City police that she was 7 1/2 weeks pregnant with twins, said the attack occurred when he came home drunk early one morning.
“Yust grabbed her by both hands dragging her to their bedroom,” a police report from the incident said. “(The victim) stated that Yust pinned her on the bed with his legs while she was lying flat on her back motionless.”
He then reportedly continued to hold her down.
“Yust looked into her eyes grinding his teeth and licking his lips as he placed both hands around her neck,” the report said. “Yust stated, ‘If you scream again, I will kill you faster than you can let out another scream out of your throat.’ ”
The woman said he choked her until she almost lost consciousness, then stopped and punched her in the thighs to keep her from passing out. She said Yust did this repeatedly until she lost consciousness. When she came to, she told police, he was lying behind her, whispering, “I love you.”
During the attack, the woman said, Yust pulled hair from the back of her head. When she tried to retrieve that hair, she said, he grabbed it and burned it. She said Yust threatened to kill her and her family if she went to police.
The police report said the woman had some bruises on her thighs and hair missing from her head.
The woman told police that Yust had been texting her, saying if they didn’t get back together he was going to kill himself. She said she had been dating him for about six months.
She also told police that six weeks earlier she had come home from work and found Yust in the bathroom holding a kitten. He repeatedly slammed the kitten to the floor, she said, then locked her out and beat the kitten to death.
The woman told police she had no idea that Yust was a possible suspect in Kopetsky’s disappearance until she looked up his name online.
Yust was charged in Kansas City Municipal Court with that assault. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years’ probation. Court records show his probation later was revoked and he was sentenced to 180 days in jail. He served 120.
Waiting for news
Rhonda Beckford, Kopetsky’s mother, told The Star on Monday that she hasn’t heard from authorities since Runions disappeared. She said she was waiting for updates on what Yust tells detectives in this new case.
“As they are doing their investigation and talking to Kylr and grilling him, we hope information comes up about Kara,” she said.
After Kopetsky disappeared, her parents briefly spoke with Yust. “He was like, ‘I know Kara is missing, I don’t know where she is. What do you want me to do, go out and put up fliers?’ ” Beckford said. “He didn’t do anything to help.”
Swanson, with Belton police, said detectives extensively worked Kopetsky’s case.
“We still do,” he said Monday. Tips continue to come in, sometimes weekly. Every time the 2007 disappearance is highlighted on a television show, people call.
In the days after Kopetsky disappeared, detectives questioned Yust more than once and checked his apartment.
“There was no physical evidence to show there was a violent act,” Swanson said. “No one saw her running from him. There was nothing. We don’t have anyone to say they saw them together that day. It’s all circumstantial.”
Just like Kopetsky’s mother, and Runions’ mother, Belton police wait.