Kara Kopetsky was 17 years old and lived in Belton, Missouri in 2007.
On May 4, 2007, Kara was at school and realized she forgot a textbook that she needed at home. She called her mother, Rhonda Beckford, who came and dropped it off at the front desk for her.
That same day, classmates remember Kara leaving school early.
Surveillance video from Belton High School showed Kara walking down the hall at 10:30 a.m, and another video shows her leaving the school soon after that. This is the last time Kara was ever seen.
Kara’s mother told police that her daughter’s then-boyfriend, Kylr (pronounced KYLER) Yust, had been abusive to Kara, so much so that Kara had filed for a protective order against him on April 30, 2007, a week before she disappeared.
On the request for the order of protection, Kara wrote, “Sat 4/28 – Kidnapped, restrained, 1 month ago choked me, Dec 06 – had knife in hand and said I’m gonna slit your mother fucking throat,” March 07 – wouldn’t let me out of my home.”
Under the section that says “an immediate and present danger of abuse exists because” she wrote, “I’m unsure of what he will do next because the abuse has gotten worse over time.”
The following information is from the 2017 Probable Cause statement:
On April 28th, 2007, Kara arrived at the Belton Police Department to report that Kylr Yust had kidnapped her earlier that evening. Kara informed the officer that Kylr Yust, was her ex-boyfriend and she had recently ended their relationship. On the 28th, as she was leaving her job at Popeye’s, the defendant forced her into his vehicle after she refused to hang out with him. Kara stated Kylr then drove around, and he eventually let her out of the vehicle after driving to Grandview.
Two days later, on April 30, 2007, Kara applied for and received an Order of Protection against Kylr, and it was served to him on May 1, 2007.
On the evening of May 4, 2007, a person referred to as “A.C.” in the statement, reported to Belton Police that Kara was missing.
A.C. was interviewed and explained that she had not seen Kara for at least two days and that Kara was not answering calls or texts. An officer contacted Kara’s mother and stepfather, Rhonda and Jim Beckford, who said Kara had been home earlier in the day, but they were not able to make contact with her that afternoon. Kara was listed in the police computer system as “Missing”.
The next day, an officer went to Kara’s home to speak with her parents. They advised that they still hadn’t had any contact with Kara and were very concerned.
On May 6, 2007, an officer made contact with Kylr. Kylr stated his last contact with Kara was on May 3. He denied having any contact with her on the 4, the day she went missing, but said that he did have a missed call from her. He tried calling her back but she didn’t answer.
Kara’s phone records revealed that Kylr was lying about the last time he had contact with her. The records show that Kara called Kylr at 9:13 on May 4 and that he had called her back at 9:20am. Surveillance video from Belton High School shows Kara exiting the school at 9:19am. This footage is the last time Kara was seen alive.
The timing of the phone calls make it seem likely that Kylr picked Kara up from school on the day she went missing.
On May 6, 2007, Kylr was interviewed by the police. He said the last time he saw or spoke to Kara was May 3 when she got off of work. He said on the 4th, Kara called him around 11 am, but he missed it because he was sleeping. He texted Kara but she never replied. He didn’t mention any contact after May 4.
Kylr admitted to police that he did kidnap Kara on April 28. He said he did it because he was upset that Kara was dating other men and that she wanted out of the relationship. An officer asked if he ever physically abused Kara, which he initially denied but later admitted he had grabbed her by the arms on several occasions during arguments.
A few months later, on July 23, 2007, Kylr was interviewed by another detective. In this interview he admitted that the night prior to Kara disappearing they got into an argument over the phone because Kara had a friend, referred to as “J.H.” coming into town. He said he was angry that Kara planned to “spend the weekend partying and running around on him.”
Belton police officers interviewed the friend mentioned. J.H. was a friend of Kara’s from St. Louis. J.H. confirmed that he was supposed to hang out with Kara the weekend after she went missing. He called Kara on May 6, but Kara didn’t answer the phone the entire weekend. He learned she was missing when he called her house on May 7 and was told by her parents.
During the investigation, police also discovered that she had a paycheck to pick up at Popeye’s on May 9 but she never picked up the check.
On June 1, police searched Kara’s locker at Belton High School where they found her debit card. After contacting the bank, they learned there had been no activity on Kara’s bank account since she disappeared.
Police also interviewed a friend of Kara’s and Kylr’s referred to as “K.R.”. K.R. informed the police that on the morning of May 4, Kara called him to ask if she and Kylr could come over to hang out. K.R. told her he was busy that day. K.R. said that Kylr stopped by anyway at 12:30 to smoke a cigarette and Kara was not with him. K.R. said Kylr called him later that day and he was crying and frantic. He told K.R. not to tell anyone that he and Kara were together earlier in the day. He said he didn’t want anyone to know they were together because of the order of protection that had been put into place. K.R. said he tried to call Kara multiple times on May 4, but she never answered.
It seemed fairly obvious from the start of the investigation into Kara’s disappearance that Kylr was the main suspect. He was questioned by police for the first time only two days after she disappeared. He admitted to kidnapping her the week before she disappeared.
In 2009, two years after the disappearance, Kylr apparently told a friend that he “snapped” and killed Kara because she “refused to love him.”
In April 2010, this friend told police what Kylr had confessed to:
On January 22, 2011, an unnamed young woman contacted police and told them that Kylr confessed to choking Kara. He said that he disposed of her body in the woods.
The same woman called police again on February 2, 2011. She said that Kylr confessed again (twice within a ten day timeframe!) to killing Kara. She told police that Kylr “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.”
On August 19, 2011, Kylr’s ex-girlfriend who was pregnant at this time, told police that Kylr had tried to choke and kill her. He also reportedly told her that he had killed girlfriends before in the past and would do the same to her. While reporting this attack, this woman also told police that Kylr had abused and killed kittens in front of her.
In September 2011, police arrested Kylr on charges of assault and animal abuse, based on the above info from his ex-girlfriend.
On February 24, 2012, Kylr was arrested on drug trafficking charges and charges of stealing while employed as an apprentice at a tattoo parlour.
On June 5, 2012, another separate witness called police and said again that Kylr had confessed to killing Kara. The method they described was similar to what had been said in his other confessions.
On November 22, 2013, Kylr was sentenced to four years jail for the drug charges. At the sentencing hearing, his lawyer told the judge that Kylr suffered from PTSD due to a traumatic childhood. He said that Kylr had been raised by his grandfather after his drug addict parents abandoned him. Kylr apparently only met his mother for the first time when he was a teenager.
In September 2015, (8 years after Kara disappeared), a police officer visited Kylr in an Oklahoma prison. Kylr refused to speak about Kara’s disappearance.
On March 28, 2016, a former cellmate of Kylr’s contacted Belton police and told them that Kylr admitted to being worried about the September 2015 police visit. Kylr allegedly asked the cellmate for help in establishing an alibi and he then broke down and admitted to killing Kara.
Despite all this, on September 2, 2016, Kylr was released from prison and was placed on supervised release.
We are now at September 8, 2016, less than one week after Kylr was released from prison after serving three years of a four year sentence.
Kylr attended a party in Grandview Missouri. His best friend Jaxon Mallett also attended the party. Jaxon was dating Jessica Runions – a 21 year old female. In the early morning hours of September 9, Kylr and Jessica left the party together. Jaxon had left the party early and she offered to give Kylr a ride home.
Witnesses that night said that Kylr was drinking heavily and acting very possessive toward Jessica and aggressive toward others at the party. Witnesses also reported seeing Jessica and Kylr arguing at the party.
Jessica was a pastry chef in the restaurant at a senior living community, and had recently been promoted to management. According to her mother, Jessica hoped to eventually go to college and pursue a degree in journalism. Described by her family as hard working, loving, and family oriented and by friends as having the best smile and the biggest heart, they were adamant that their eldest daughter wouldn’t simply disappear. She loved spending time with her much younger sisters, and sent texts and pictures to their family group chat every day.
Jessica’s family and boyfriend were immediately concerned when she failed to return home. She had originally scheduled a doctor’s appointment for September 9, to follow up to her recent appendix removal, an appointment her mom was to attend with her. She did not attend this appointment. They were unable to reach her on her phone. Her family reported her missing at 10.10pm on the night of September 9.
In the early hours of September 10, Jessica’s black 2012 Chevy Equinox was found burned near East 95th Street and Blue River Road in Kansas City, some 20 miles away from the party she left. Later that day, Kylr’s brother Jessep Carter contacted police and told them he was present when Kylr burned Jessica’s car. He also told police that Kylr admitted strangling Jessica and “dragged her body into the woods, but could not drag her very far in”. Jessep . also told the police about the burns Kylr suffered when he attempted to set fire to Jessica’s car. After burning the vehicle, Jessep drove Kylr to a home in Edwards to heal from his wounds. Immediately after he dropped off Kylr, he called police to tell them everything he knew.
On September 11, Kylr was arrested at Jessep’s house and charged with knowingly burning Jessica’s vehicle. When police arrested Kylr, they noticed burns to his hand, face and arms and what appeared to be scratches to his face. His bail was set at $50,000 cash only at his September 15 court appearance.
On September 13, authorities suspended their physical search for Runions, and her family organized their own efforts near the spot, focusing their search primarily where Jessica’s burned vehicle was found, and continuing their search for months. While authorities did stop their physical search, they did ask landowners and hunters look at their trail and game cameras near the location where her car was found. Missouri Search and Rescue also conducted field searches in conjunction with the police.
On September 14, Kylr’s birthday, Kylr was transferred to Jackson County Jail into the custody of the Kansas City Police Department. Police also searched Kylr’s grandfather’s house, where according to him, Kylr slept in a tiny bedroom for days before he was arrested. Authorities were searching for firearms, any burned clothing, Jessica’s outfit from when she was last seen – a blue plaid flannel shirt and black yoga pants, a white iPhone 6 in a black and white case, a brown leather purse with shoulder strap, red or burgundy shoes with white on the bottom; Chevy car keys on a black ‘Nightmare before Christmas lanyard; red men’s shoes and blue jeans, and trace evidence. What the detectives found and removed was a swab, an alcohol pad with blood, blue plaid shirt, and a q-tip with blood.
Jessica’s aunt, Michele, spoke to the media early in the investigation and said of Kylr, that he was a kid with ‘a very bad background. ‘
On October 5, 2016, yet another person came forward and stated that Kylr confessed three years earlier to them that he had killed Kara.
For months, law enforcement, family and friends searched for Runions and focused the majority of their search on the area where Jessica’s burned vehicle was found.
On April 3, 2017, Jessica’s remains were found by a mushroom hunter in a wooded area near Belton, roughly 12 miles from the house party where Jessica made the fatal decision to help a friend of her boyfriend get home safely. The next day, another set of remains were located nearby. Jessica was positively identified on April 5, 2017.
As the second set of remains appeared much older, they were expected to take more time to identify, perhaps up to one year. “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 at the time.
When Rhonda, Kara’s mother heard of the discovery, she believed straight away that the remains were that of her daughter. “In my heart of hearts, I believe it’s Kara. Here we are, still waiting, yet again.”
Jessica was laid to rest in late April 2017.
In August 2017, four months after Jessica was buried, the second set of remains were identified. Lt Brad Swanson of the Belton PD released this statement:
‘On today’s date the Belton Police along with the Cass Co. Prosecutor and Sheriff’s offices were notified that the FBI had confirmed that the remains found in Cass County on April 4th were those of Kara Kopetsky’.
On October 5, 2017, Kylr Yust was finally charged with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of abandoning a corpse, in relation to Jessica and Kara’s disappearances and deaths.
On September 19, 2018, Jessep Carter, Kylr’s brother was found dead in his prison cell, from suicide.
Jamie Runions, Jessica’s mother, said she had “no words” after hearing of Carter’s death.
“He was obviously hurting bad to want to hurt himself, or dealing with things he could not cope with,” Jamie said. “Unfortunately, when someone wants to hurt themselves no one can fix them. They have to want to fix themselves. It is sad.”
The original trial date for Kylr was set for November 2019. It was delayed after more evidence was turned over to the defence. This included more than 40 disks containing police reports, FBI info and public tips.
Kylr’s attorney also sought to delay the trial on August 23, 2019. It was argued that he wasn’t mentally competent and did not understand the proceedings against him. Kylr was said to “suffer from a mental disease or defect” and his attorney said that he needed treatment before he faced a jury. In late November 2019, Kylr requested an additional competency evaluation, to determine the state of his mental health. He asked that the Cass County Jail’s medical provider conduct an examination and “provide the required mental health treatment as ordered.”
Not long after Kylr filed this request, his lawyer appeared in court and said they would withdraw the request for the additional evaluation if the jail doctor agreed to give Yust medicine for anxiety and depression. It was agreed that Kylr would be examined by the jail’s doctor to determine if he needed these drugs. The outcome of this examination or of the plan for treating Kylr’s mental health has not been made public.
In December 2019, Kylr’s attorneys asked for further DNA testing to be completed before a trial could start. At the time, it was unclear what exactly they were seeking to have tested, but it was thought to involve the remains of both Kara and Jessica.
The most recent court date for Kylr was December 19, 2019 and this was to determine the start date for his trial. Jury selection is now due to start on July 22 this year. Jurors will be brought in from St. Charles County, which is just outside of St. Louis. Once the jury is set, the trial is due to begin, Monday July 27.
During the December 19 court appearance, Prosecutors denied the requests from Kylr’s attorneys to retest DNA evidence. It emerged that they had been asking for the remains of both women to be retested, as well as hair found in 2013 by the FBI in a white SUV.