NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News

Jury Recommends Life In Prison For Kylr Yust, Convicted Of Killing Two Kansas City-Area Women

041621_cm_YustSentencing
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Jamie Runions, left, and Rhonda Beckford talk outside Cass County Justice Center on Friday after Kylr Yust was sentenced in the killings of their daughters, Jessica Runions and Kara Kopetsky.

Jurors have recommended the maximum sentences for his convictions in the deaths of Jessica Runions and Kara Kopetsky.

Jurors have recommended that Kylr Yust receive the maximum sentences for his convictions in the deaths of Jessica Runions and Kara Kopetsky.

The jurors said Yust should serve life in prison for second-degree murder in connection with the death of Runions and 15 years for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Kopetsky.

The jury convicted Yust, 32, of the charges Thursday night following an eight-day-long trial after it had deliberated for 16 hours.

Kopetsky, 17, went missing in May 2007 and Runions, 21, went missing in September 2016. Yust was charged with their killings after their remains were found in a wooded area in Cass County.

Jurors were selected from across the state in St. Charles County because of local publicity about the case.

Their sentencing recommendations came after a morning of emotional testimony at the Cass County Courthouse by the two women’s families.

“We’re just grateful to be where we are today, because there were days we didn’t know if our girls were ever going to be found. We’re just so grateful that they were found, and we have them back now,” Rhonda Beckford, Kopetsky’s mother, said.

Beckford described her daughter as a “carefree, loving, loyal person.” She said she never lost hope that Kopetsky would be found and that when her remains were discovered in a Cass County field in 2017, it was “an answer to a 10-year-long prayer.”

Kopetsky’s father, Mike Kopetsky, talked about the closeness he shared with his daughter during her teenage years. He said she would often call him at night and wake him up just to talk.

“She was very open, very brutally open, but that’s what made her great,” he said.

Both parents testified that Kopetsky was quick to forgive others and that it was her very forgiving nature that led to her death.

Kopetsky’s mother asked for the maximum sentence after the jury found him guilty of a lesser charge than the original first-degree murder charge.

“I don’t really feel like justice was served where Kara’s concerned,” she said.

Through tears, Beckford said she believed Yust “will do it again, given the chance.”

Yust verdict 041521 JAT 157F.jpg
Pool Photo - Jill Toyoshiba
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.

Jessica Runions’ mother said she hoped jurors would consider both families when making their recommendations.

"If a person does stuff, they're gonna do it again," Jamie Runions said.

She told the jury that when she was told Yust was the last one seen with her daughter in 2016, she “was scared to death."

Jessica Runions was a loving sister, her mother told the jury. She tearfully shared several pictures of her daughter, including a picture of her at Thanksgiving before she went missing.

“She was a beautiful soul, and she was my best friend,” said Runions’ sister Megan Runions, sobbing on the witness stand.

John Runions, Jessica Runions’ father, told jurors he’ll never get the chance to walk his daughter down the aisle

“She was in the prime of her life. She was 21 years old. She had her whole life ahead of her,” he said.

Defense lawyers called several witnesses to plead for leniency. Several said they did not believe he was the type of person who could have committed the crimes of which he was convicted.

Yust’s childhood neighbors testified that his mother was absent and his father lacked any responsibilities while Yust was growing up.

A childhood friend, identified only as L.W., said Yust told him when he was 8 years old that his father was abusing him.

Ciara West, who has known Yust since she was 15, said she was shocked when she heard he was charged.

“I didn’t ever for a second believe that at all. I’ve never seen him raise his voice,” said West.

“He has a chance to be on the other side of the sentence,” defense lawyer Molly Hastings told the jury. “Despite popular opinion, Kylr Yust is worth something.”

But Cass County Prosecutor Ben Butler told jurors that Yust should receive the maximum sentences for his convictions.

Formal sentencing is set for June 7, 2021. Judge William Collins will decide whether to adopt the jury’s recommendations and if the sentences should run concurrently or consecutively.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
Your donation today keeps local journalism strong.