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Jury Convicts Kylr Yust In Killings Of Two Women Nearly A Decade Apart

Kylr Yust shortly after a jury in Cass County found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kara Kopetsky and second-degree murder in the death of Jessica Runions.
Jill Toyoshiba
The Kansas City Star
Kylr Yust shortly after a jury in Cass County found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kara Kopetsky and second-degree murder in the death of Jessica Runions.

Yust took the witness stand in his own defense, blaming his deceased half-brother for the killings.

After nearly 16 hours of deliberation, a jury in Cass County on Thursday night found Kylr Yust guilty of second degree murder in the death of Jessica Runions and guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kara Kopetsky.

Yust was charged in 2017 with two counts of first-degree murder after the two women’s remains were found in a wooded area in Cass County.

The families of both women were seated in the court, several in tears, as Cass County Circuit Judge William Collins instructed everyone to remain calm before the jury returned its verdict.

The jury began deliberating Wednesday night after a day that saw Yust take the witness stand in his own defense.

Yust admitted publicly for the first time Wednesday that he was with Kara Kopetsky in Belton, Missouri, the day she disappeared in May 2007.

But he laid the blame for the women’s deaths on his deceased half-brother, Jessup Carter, whom he accused of killing the two women. Carter died by suicide in 2018 in the Jackson County jail.

Earlier in the day, the jury requested a map outlining the Cass County and Jackson County boundary lines. The request was initially denied by Judge Collins, who told them to use their collective memories.

The jury asked for a map a second time to answer an instruction that Yust beyond a reasonable doubt was present in Cass County on Sept. 8, 2016, at 11:30 p.m. and at 6 a.m. the following morning. That was the last time that Runions was seen alive.

Collins said that under normal circumstances, he would not allow the jury to view a map that wasn’t entered into evidence. But he allowed it after Yust’s defense counsel didn’t object.

Runions was last seen leaving a party with Yust, who claimed she took him back to his grandfather’s house in Kansas City, Missouri. Yust testified that he saw Runions’ car the next morning and when he returned from work it was gone.

The jury was selected from across the state in St. Charles County because of local publicity about the case.

In closing arguments Wednesday, the defense sought to cast doubt on the police investigation and pointed to the lack of physical evidence in the prosecution’s case. No DNA evidence linked Yust to either killing.

Cass County prosecutor Julie Tolle argued that Yust was an “obsessive, jealous, pathetic” boyfriend and could not abide either woman becoming involved with another man.

Several witnesses for the prosecution testified that Yust had confessed to the killings over the last 14 years.

The sentencing portion of the case begins Friday morning. The jury will sentence Yust, but Judge Collins will decide if the sentences are to run concurrently or consecutively.

Under Missouri law, second-degree murder is punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Voluntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

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