Two skulls found near Belton; now two moms wait to learn if they are their missing daughters

CASS COUNTY, Mo. —  Two mothers, each facing the fear and grief of a daughter gone missing, now await answers from the FBI and Cass County investigators after two human skulls were found near each other in a wooded area near E. 233rd and State Route Y, south of Belton.

The first human skull was found Monday evening by a mushroom hunter. As investigators brought in their teams and tools and searched a five-acre area, they found another human skull on Tuesday. After that, they contacted the families of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions, two young women missing from the Kansas City area. Kara has been missing since 2007; Jessica since Sept. 2016. Kara was 17-years-old at the time of her disappearance; Jessica was 21 when she disappeared.

Jessica Runions (left) and Kara Kopetsky

Although Jessica and Kara likely never knew each other, and although Jessica is about five years younger than Kara, there is something else they have in common; a man named Kylr Yust, 28. Jessica was acquainted with Yust, who was Kara's former boyfriend. Yust was questioned about their disappearances and while never charged in the disappearance of Kara Kopetsky, he was charged with 'knowingly burning' Jessica Runions' car, which was found set on fire near Bannister and Blue River Road. He pleaded not guilty and is currently in custody at the Jackson County Detention Center. His case has been sealed but his trial for the Class D 'knowingly burning' felony is scheduled for October 16, 2017.

Kara’s mother and Jessica’s mother have become friends, sharing the common and devastating bond of missing a child.

“I don’t think I could get through this without them and my family and friends,” said Jamie Runions, Jessica’s mom. “It’s just hard. It’s the hardest thing anybody would have to go through.”

“We are a team and when you have a missing child… People can say they understand how you feel but unless you have another child that’s missing, you don’t,” said Beckford, Kara Kopetsky’s mother. “It’s not like any other thing and it’s drawn us closer together and we are like sisters.”

Kara Kopetsky, from Belton, has been missing since May 2007, last seen on surveillance video leaving Belton High School on May 4, 2007. She has not been seen since.

Jessica Runions, of Raymore disappeared in September 2016; she was last seen at a party Sept. 8, 2016 with her boyfriend and Kylr Yust.

Jessica, Kara and Kylr Yust

“My feeling is Kara is gone but of course there is always that doubt in the back of your mind when you don’t know 100 percent. You always hold onto that hope that’s what you go on. But we need a resolution to this and we need to find out what happened to our girls. Good or bad, we just want them home​,” said Beckford. “They brought us here because they thought there would be some new information that would come in but it just hasn’t panned out to be that way. We’re still just waiting.”

“Every hour, every day, every minute, we just hope and pray those answers come in and we find our daughters and we are able to put the dirt bag away for the rest of his life so he can’t hurt anyone else again,” said Beckford.

"We are not at this time able to determine if it's male or female, if we have an age, a sex. We don't have that information," said Sheriff Jeff Weber, Cass County.

According to Beckford, her daughter filed a restraining order against Yust shortly before she vanished in 2007. The order wasn’t officially granted until after she disappeared.

In 2011, four years after Kara disappeared, Yust, then 22,  was charged with two counts of animal abuse, including smashing a kitten against a bathroom floor.  According to prosecutors, Yust allegedly smashed the head of a kitten against a bathroom floor on July 5, 2011, and then allegedly drowned two kittens in a bag in an area creek on July 20, 2011.

A week before the animal abuse charges, Yust was placed on two years probation after pleading guilty to beating and choking his 18-year-old pregnant girlfriend. According to police reports, Yust allegedly told the teen that he could dispose of body parts in a pig pen on a family ranch.

Family and friends of both woman have been searching for clues in their disappearance but have had no luck. Just in January, groups searching for Runions’ body found two bodies while searching, but neither of those bodies belong to either of these women.

According to Captain Kevin Tieman, the skull recovered Monday has been sent to the Jackson County Medical Examiner for further examination.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol has shut down approximately 6.5 miles of S. State Route Y between YY-Hwy and D-Hwy (Holmes Road) for the search.

Wednesday at 9:32 a.m., Captain Teiman issued a statement that said the search would resume Thursday.

"Due to weather conditions at the scene of 233rd/Y Hwy investigators will not be searching the area today," the statement said. "Investigators will resume searching Thursday morning around 8 a.m.  The area will continue to be under law enforcement control and access to surrounding area is limited."

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