Crime

One set of remains found in Cass County identified as Jessica Runions of Raymore

Mothers of missing women awaited resolution hours before Jessica Runions' remains were identified

After human bones, including two skulls, were found in Cass County on Monday and Tuesday, Rhonda Beckford and Jamie Runions waited at Beckford's home Wednesday for news about their missing daughters from authorities. That evening, authorities conf
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After human bones, including two skulls, were found in Cass County on Monday and Tuesday, Rhonda Beckford and Jamie Runions waited at Beckford's home Wednesday for news about their missing daughters from authorities. That evening, authorities conf

Some of the bones found two days ago in rural Cass County have been identified as those of missing Raymore woman Jessica Runions.

Kansas City police notified the Runions family Wednesday evening, according to a release from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. Runions, 21, was last seen Sept. 8.

Her death is being investigated by Kansas City police as a homicide.

Captain Kevin Tieman of the Cass County Sheriff's Office briefed the media Thursday evening on the progress of forensic searching and evidence recovery in rural Cass County following Monday's discovery of human remains of two individuals. One set

Forensic specialists were consulted after a mushroom hunter found human bones Monday afternoon by a quarry near 233rd and Y Highway. One skull was found the first day of the search and a second the day after.

An up-to-date look at developments in the disappearances of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions.

Because the second skull appears to be much older, it could take months to identify.

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“Right now, we really don’t have a time frame of when we will have results on the other victim,” Capt. Kevin Tieman, of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, said Wednesday evening.

Investigators will resume searching the wooded location near the quarry, and by the highway, Thursday morning. Nearly 100 investigators from several agencies are expected to help.

Family members of Runions and Kara Kopetsky, who has been missing for 10 years, were alerted as soon as the first bones were found. They were told it could take awhile to identify the remains.

Rhonda Beckford, Kopetsky’s mother, told reporters Wednesday night that police said the second skull was not complete, and identification could take up to a year.

“In my heart of hearts, I believe it’s Kara,” Beckford said. “Here we are, still waiting, yet again.”

Jamie Runions, Jessica’s mother, spent much of Wednesday with Rhonda and her husband, Jim Beckford. The mothers spoke with authorities Wednesday evening.

After learning the identification had been made, Jamie Runions left to be with family. Earlier Wednesday, she told The Star that no matter what happens, she would keep asking questions.

“I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, fighting and searching and looking for answers,” Runions said. “I’ve got two other girls that look up to me, I’m not giving up, so I’m going to fight until I find answers.”

Since the discovery of bones Monday, many people across the Kansas City area have flooded social media with prayers that answers would come soon.

“Continuing prayers for both families and hopeful this nightmare comes to resolve for both families,” one woman wrote on the Facebook page of Jamie Runions.

Another added a message Wednesday evening: “My heart aches and cries out for you. Love and even more prayers as deal with this loss.”

Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber said Tuesday afternoon that the remains of two bodies, including skulls, had been found in a wooded area west of Peculiar and the search of the area would be a multi-day event.

Tiffani Sims, Jessica Runions’ cousin on her father’s side, said early Wednesday evening that the family was still waiting for information. After the identification, she could not be reached.

Runions, described by family as sweet and someone who rarely got mad, was last seen leaving a gathering of friends in south Kansas City. She was with Kylr Yust, a friend of Runions’ boyfriend, that Sept. 8 evening.

Three days later, after Runions’ burned vehicle was discovered, Yust was arrested. Prosecutors charged him with burning her vehicle and he’s currently jailed, facing an October trial.

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After news of Runions’ disappearance spread, and Yust’s name was mentioned, many thought back to Kopetsky, who had gotten a protection order against him in the weeks before she disappeared. Yust, an on-again, off-again boyfriend of Kopetsky’s, was questioned by authorities 10 years ago. He insisted he didn’t know where she was.

Kopetsky disappeared May 4, 2007, from Belton High School. The 17-year-old had walked to school and called her mom when she got there, saying she had forgotten a textbook. The teen eventually went to the office and picked up the book her mom had dropped off, but later that morning was seen on a surveillance camera leaving the school.

Yust, 28, has not been charged in connection with either disappearance.

Since September, the mothers of the two missing women have become close, united in their hope that someday the person responsible will be punished.

“She knows that if she’s having a bad day that she can call us, and our phone is always open and we’re always going to answer,” Rhonda Beckford told The Star hours before Runions’ remains were identified. “...The waiting is the hardest part, but I’m still hopeful that possibly today or this week, one day, that we will have the answers to if these skulls are our daughters.”

Runions’ family has been out nearly every weekend in the past seven months searching for her. And they’ve gone to court when Yust is there.

In late September, friends and family of the Raymore woman packed a courtroom during a routine appearance for Yust. Her father, John Runions, had to be held back as Yust walked in. And after the brief hearing, Linda Runions, her grandmother, pleaded for anyone with information to come forward.

“Somebody knows something,” Linda Runions said. “We just want to know something.”

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Laura Bauer: 816-234-4944, @kclaurab

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