CASS COUNTY, Mo. -- Investigators think Friday will be their last day collecting evidence in a wooded area near E. 233rd Street and State Route Y, south of Belton, where the remains of two people were located early this week.
One set of remains has been positively identified as Jessica Runions, 21, missing since September 2016. Her car was found burned near Bannister and Blue River Road shortly after her mom reported her missing. A man named Kylr Yust, 28, has been charged with 'knowingly burning' Runions' car. He was identified by friends as one of the last people Runions was seen with after leaving a party with him. Yust is also connected to another missing woman, Kara Kopetsky, who disappeared in May 2007. He was her ex-boyfriend at the time of her disappearance; she was last seen leaving Belton High School. Kopetsky's mother waits to hear if the second set of remains found belong to her daughter.
Capt. Kevin Tieman with the Cass County Sheriff's Office says on Friday they have a reduced crew of about 40 people from specialized units from the FBI, Kansas City's Crime Lab, along with the Jackson County Medical Examiners remained out at the scene. On Thursday, about 100 investigators were out there, spending a majority of the day gridding the enter area.
"We're always hopeful, not only hopeful in identifying that person, but providing the evidence that all the agencies involved in this case need to have some sort of successful prosecution on whoever's responsible for these people being out here," Capt. Tieman said.
Capt. Tieman says cadaver dogs narrowed down the search area to about 15 acres that 'we felt we needed to go through with human eyes," Capt. Tieman said.
Then, investigators narrowed it down further to about two acres, from about 400,000 square feet.
The work being done is meticulous. On Thursday there were more than 100 people from various agencies and departments searching 'on their hands and knees in the wet muddy conditions going through everything."
"We take a heavily wooded area with lots of undergrowth and we have basically cleared all that out. There's not a lot of undergrowth standing. There's not a lot of debris left on the ground because they've basically cleared out that entire area at this point," he said
He says some of the areas in the grid have been searched four or five times. Capt. Tieman expects authorities will keep the scene secure through part of the weekend but after that he expects it will be released and they'll open up the highway again.