HARRISOVILLE, Mo. — The sentencing phase of Kylr Yust’s trial on Friday included victim impact statements from the families of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions, who told the jury how their losses devastated them.
Family members took the stand, directly telling the jury about their grief before the members considered the length of Yust’s sentences for second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
“Kara was amazing, she was exceptional, she was likable,” Kopetsky’s stepfather Jim Beckford said through tears.
At times Beckford found it hard to breathe while taking about Kopetsky, describing her as a kind, affectionate, exciting, spontaneous girl.
“Those few words attached to her name, Kara Elise, and I thought that’s just the tip of who Kara was,” Beckford said.
Kopetsky’s mother, Rhonda Beckford, told the jury about how her disappearance on May 4, 2007 impacted the family.
“It ripped our whole life, our whole family apart, and changed our lives forever. It started a 10-year nightmare,” she said.
Kopetsky’s disappearance led to 10 years of waking up every day realizing their nightmare hadn’t ended, wondering where their daughter was. It was 10 years of searching without quitting.
“And you’re kind of in limbo. You can’t move on until you know what happened to your child, your daughter, my firstborn,” Rhonda Beckford said.
“Kara was a special person. Loving, carefree, and loyal. (She was) fast to forgive, and that forgiveness is what cost her her life.”
She was referring to the turbulent relationship between her daughter and Yust. Something she may have spoken to her father, Mike Kopetsky, about as they grew closer in their daughter’s teenage years.
In the end, Jim Beckford summed up the impact of their missing daughter over the last 14 years by placing a collection of rubber bracelets on the witness stand and describing the ones he still wears.
“This is a Kara bracelet, and this is what it looked like when I put it on. We’ve heard a lot about time and all of that. This is what it looks like; this is after a year, this is after a lot of years,” he described while showing a number of bracelets.
The jury recommended Yust spend 15 years in prison for killing Kopetsky, which is the maximum for voluntary manslaughter in Missouri. Kopetsky’s mom expressed her disappointment, telling the jury she does not believe justice was served in her daughter’s case.