Kylr Yust charged with murder in Kara Kopetsky, Jessica Runions deaths

Kylr Yust, long suspected in the 2007 disappearance of Kara Kopetsky, was charged Thursday in Cass County with killing her and Jessica Runions.

Yust is charged with two counts of murder in the first degree and two counts of abandonment of a corpse.

“We’re just glad and we hope they can get it taken care of,” said Mike Runions, Jessica’s grandfather. “Right now there’s nothing we can do but wait to see what happens.”

The charges come six months after a mushroom hunter found human bones in a wooded area south of Belton on April 3. Authorities then scoured the area near a quarry and found more remains, including a second skull.

Police notified Kopetsky’s family, as well as the family of Runions — who was last seen in September 2016 — to tell them about that discovery. Soon after, Runions’ family learned that one set of remains belonged to their daughter. It took another four months for the second set of remains to be identified. Kopetsky’s family was notified in mid August that they were Kara’s.

According to a probable cause statement, at least four people over the years told investigators that Yust confessed to them that he choked Kopetsky — who was last seen in May 2007 leaving Belton High School — until she stopped breathing. He told one friend he packed his estranged girlfriend’s body and discarded her remains into a wooded area. Yust said to another friend that authorities would never find the body.

A former roommate of Yust’s told a Belton sergeant in April 2010 about a conversation he had with Yust some time in 2009.

The man said he told Yust about a problem he was having with a girlfriend and Yust told him that he shouldn’t get attached to girls.

“(The former roommate) stated Yust then told him that the victim (Kopetsky) wouldn’t love him, and that he was angry with her because he didn’t want her to love someone else,” the probable cause statement stated. “Yust then told (him) that he had just snapped, and that something bad happened to the victim.”

One woman told police twice within two weeks in early 2011 that Yust confessed to her.

That woman, “stated that Yust described watching the victim breathe her last breath, and falling back against a chair and staring at her body for a short time before packing her up and placing her body in the woods,” the court records state.

It is unclear why Yust was not charged in Kopetsky’s death earlier.

Phone records revealed that Kopetsky called Yust at 9:13 a.m. May 4, 2007. Six minutes later, a security camera showed her leaving school — the last time she was seen alive. At 9:20 a.m. Yust returned her call.

Runions was last seen Sept. 8, 2016, leaving a gathering with Yust. Court records say that witnesses at the gathering said Yust was “drinking heavily at the party and (he) was acting very possessive towards (Runions) and aggressive towards others at the party.”

Witnesses also told police that Yust and Runions were arguing at the party, the records state.

Soon after Runions was reported missing, authorities found her burned vehicle in a wooded area in south Kansas City and charged Yust with burning it. His trial on that charge has been scheduled for this month.

In April, Jessep S. Carter — Yust’s half-brother — turned himself in to authorities in Benton County after being sought for traffic violations allegedly committed in another county on the September 2016 day Runions’ vehicle was found burned.

Carter was accused of resisting a traffic stop as well as owning a vehicle and operating a vehicle without maintaining financial responsibility, driving without a valid license and failing to display license plates.

Yust was one of the passengers in the vehicle driven by his brother when they were stopped by a sheriff’s deputy in Henry County, Mo., on Sept. 10. Yust was arrested the next day.

Rhonda Beckford and Jamie Runions spoke to reporters Thursday night. The pair, who have grown close since Jessica disappeared a year ago, said they couldn’t comment on the ongoing investigation. But they wanted to thank the community and media who have continued to cover both disappearances.

“You guys have been our girls’ voice,” Rhonda Beckford said. “You’ve made sure that Kara hasn’t been forgotten about and that’s where we’ve always wanted the focus to be — is on our girls.

“And that’s where we would like for it to continue to be.”

Jessica’s mother said the support from the community has been immense.

“We love the continued prayers, the strength that they give us,” Jamie Runions said. “I mean they are wonderful, they are amazing.”

Laura Bauer: 816-234-4944, @kclaurab

Toriano Porter: 816-234-4779, @torianoporter

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