Kylr Yust found guilty in deaths of Kara Kopetsky, Jessica Runions

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HARRISONVILLE, Mo. — A jury has found Kylr Yust guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kara Kopetsky and second-degree murder in the death of Jessica Runions on Thursday.

After deliberating for hours and asking to review several pieces of evidence, the jury came back with the decision Thursday evening.

Seventeen-year-old Kopetsky disappeared after leaving Belton High School in 2007. Yust was suspected but not initially charged.

Then 21-year-old Runions disappeared in 2016, last seen leaving a house party. Runions’ car was found burned the next day. Yust was arrested and charged with burning the car, but that charge was dropped when murder charges were filed.

After years of searching for Kopetsky and months of searching for Runions, the women’s remains were discovered in spring 2017 in rural Cass County.

Yust was charged with murder shortly after the bodies were discovered and pleaded not guilty. It took four years for those charges to come to trial.

At the end of March, a jury was selected in St. Charles County, over in the St. Louis area, and then brought to Cass County for the trial. Made up of 12 jurors, plus four alternates, the jury consisted of 13 women and three men.

The jury sat through nine days of trial, including opening statements, testimony and closing arguments, before going into deliberation.

The prosecution focused primarily on past allegations of domestic violence, including from an ex-girlfriend who detailed a violent relationship with Yust, including choking and other abuse.

Prosecutors also presented a wiretap recording, where Yust seemingly admitted to another ex-girlfriend that he strangled Kopetsky. Several other witnesses also testified that he confessed to them.

Defense attorneys consistently knocked the state’s lack of physical evidence in the case, casting doubt on law enforcement’s investigation. They argued the investigation was mishandled, and the evidence couldn’t point to Yust as the killer.

The defense also angled that there could be another suspect in the case — Yust’s half-brother Jessep Carter.

Yust shocked many who have been following the case when he was the final witness to take the stand Wednesday.

His testimony was a vehicle the defense needed to truly introduce Carter as an alternate suspect. That’s because much of the related testimony the defense wanted to present was denied. Yust told jurors Carter was with him the day Kopetsky was last seen, and he remembers seeing Carter at the party the night Runions disappeared.

In the end though, the doubt surrounding Carter wasn’t enough. After deliberating for several hours, jurors came back with their decision to convict Yust of different charges for Kopetsky and Runions deaths.

Sentencing will be held Friday.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. We’ll have live coverage from Cass County on FOX4 News at 9 and 10 p.m.

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