‘If a person does stuff, they’re gonna do it again’: Jessica Runions’ mother speaks to jury ahead of sentencing

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HARRISONVILLE, Mo. — Jamie Runions, mother of Jessica Runions, took the stand during victim impact statements following the guilty verdict of Kylr Yust in Jessica’s death.

“This is her preschool picture,” Runions said. “And I’m gonna tell you, everyone of my girls looked alike when they were this age.”

Runions shared images of Jessica and detailed what she was like as a person, daughter and friend.

“That was the Thanksgiving before she went missing, we were at my parents house,” Runions said. “That’s my father and that’s how Jessica and Megan are. That is the bond and the love they share.”

Image after image appeared on the screen as Runions shared memories and milestones about her daughter.

“This is one of many pictures that they [Jessica and her younger sister] have had together where Jessica is sitting there and just making her say, ‘I love you, Keka!'” Runions said.

Yust was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Runions and voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kara Kopetsky.

“It’s been the longest four years and seven months of my entire life,” Runions said the the jury. “We spent seven months searching. I was also trying to keep another daughter alive.”

Runions said that one of her other daughters was experiencing suicidal thoughts a month after Jessica went missing.

“On November 4, 2016, I found out my daughter was actually dead. And she was left in the woods. I could not tell my other child because she couldn’t take it at that time. She found out on April 5, 2017. So you can only imagine what my worry was that my daughter was gone and she was in the woods,” Runions said holding back tears. “My focus was, ‘We have to find Jessica!’ She’s out in the woods, she’s not burried. She’s in snow, rain, heat, cold, she has nobody there for her. She has nobody there who loves her or protects her. she is by herself in the woods.”

Runions said from the day she heard the news that her daughter was gone, she had a mission to find her body.

“I knew that if I found one, if we all find one, we would find the other. And you know what? My prayers were answered and we found both of our girls,” Runions said.

The search brought the families of Runions and Kopetsky together. Jamie Runions said without that bond, making it through the tough times would have been much more difficult.

“It’s a roller coaster than nobody understands. It’s a community that nobody understands. You wouldn’t wish this community on your worst nightmare, or your friends, enemies or anybody. I believe our girls brought us together. They knew that we couldn’t deal with it by ourselves. We needed somebody who understands,” Runions said.

In her final words to the jury, Runions said she prayed they would take into consideration the families and how they have been impacted by the loss of their daughters.

“I pray that they take into consideration, two families, that have spent 15 years in May of looking, searching, crying, not knowing,” Runions said. “I just pray that you think about it and know that if a person does stuff, they’re gonna do it again.”

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