Jessica Runions' family continues search, seeks closure
The father of a missing Raymore woman had to be held back by family members Thursday afternoon as Kylr Yust walked into a Jackson County courtroom.
Yust, 28, stood before Associate Judge Janette K. Rodecap for just a few minutes during a routine hearing. He is not charged in the disappearance of Jessica Runions, 21, but is accused of knowingly burning her vehicle.
Runions’ father sat in the front row, overcome with grief during Yust’s court appearance. Family members say it was the first time he had seen Yust since his daughter disappeared after leaving a gathering Sept. 8 in south Kansas City with Yust.
“Thank you everyone for showing up and supporting the family,” John Michael Runions said through tears after the hearing as relatives gathered outside the courtroom. A female family member hugged him as she started to cry and said: “We will stand here with you forever.”
Three days after Jessica Runions disappeared, Yust was arrested and charged with burning her 2012 black Chevrolet Equinox, which authorities found in the early morning hours of Sept. 10. Yust’s court record has been sealed, and authorities have released few details.
Kansas City police said Thursday there was no update in the case.
“You wake up in the middle of the night wondering where she’s at,” said Regina Bryant, a cousin of Jessica Runions’ grandfather, Mike Runions. Bryant was one of more than two dozen family members at the hearing. “We’re all processing this the best way we know how.”
In the past three weeks, members of the community have helped the Runions family search for Jessica. Groups have held fundraisers, and friends and family, especially Runions’ mother, Jamie, have continued to post her photo on social media.
Also in the courtroom Thursday were Rhonda and Jim Beckford, the mother and stepfather of Kara Kopetsky. Kopetsky, then 17, was an ex-girlfriend of Yust’s when she disappeared in May 2007.
The Beckfords have made it a practice to have a family member in court every time Yust appears, for whatever reason.
Across the aisle from the Beckfords was one person who had been friends with Yust since March, shortly after he was released from prison on a drug conviction. The woman, who would identify herself only as Jennifer, said Yust texted her around 2 a.m. Sept. 9, a little more than four hours after Yust left the gathering with Runions.
“He wanted a ride,” Jennifer said. “He said his car was getting a new transmission. He wanted to hang out.”
Yust told her he was at his grandfather’s house, she said. The two texted back and forth until the next evening. She said it wasn’t until a day or two later that she learned about the missing Raymore woman.
Jennifer described her relationship with Yust as “just friends.” “He’s a very intelligent person to talk to. I never anticipated anything like this.”
Yust’s next court appearance is Oct. 31. He’s being held on a $50,000 cash-only bond and has qualified for a public defender.
Runions’ family said they’ll continue to search for her and are grateful for the community’s support.
“Jessica’s a fun-loving girl, always smiling,” said Kelly Newberry, a cousin.
It’s important, said Linda Runions, Jessica’s grandmother, to make sure that the focus stays on Jessica.
“Somebody knows something. ... Please,” she said. “We just want to know something.
“We just want to find her. Everybody wants that.”