CASS COUNTY, Mo. (NewsNation Now) — A Missouri man was sentenced Monday for the deaths of two young women whose killings were nearly a decade apart.
A judge sentenced Kylr Yust Monday to 15 years for the death of Kara Kopetsky and life in prison for Jessica Runions.
Kopetsky, 17, went missing in May of 2007 during a free period at her high school.
Runions, 21, disappeared in September of 2016 — nearly 10 years after Kopetsky.
Friends and family never heard another word from either of the women who seemed to have disappeared without a trace. Until in the spring of 2017, when a mushroom hunter found a skull in the woods.
“I was just walking through there watching the ground. I was on game trails and such where it was easier walking and just looking on both sides of the trail just hoping to spot a mushroom,” said Keith Todd.
When investigators descended on the area the next day, a second skull was discovered about 25 yards away from the first.
The medical examiner’s office would confirm what the families of the two missing young women had feared: The remains of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions had been found.
The link between Kopetsky and Runions?
The two girls didn’t know each other and disappeared nearly a decade apart.
Their connection was Kylr Yust.
Kopetsky dated Yust, and just days before she went missing, the 17-year old filed a restraining order against him claiming Yust was violent. She said that he had kidnapped her, threatened her with a knife and told her he’d slit her throat. Days after Kopetsky filed that protection order, she disappeared.
Runions also dated Yust. Although they weren’t a couple when she disappeared after they left a party together. Days later, she was still missing, but her car was found in Kansas City — burned and badly damaged. Police questioned Yust, whose face and hands were burned and blistered and his hair singed. He was taken into custody for burning Jessica’s car, but there was no evidence to charge him with anything more serious.
However, to investigators, Yust seemed like the person who could be responsible.
In 2011, a former girlfriend even wore a wire for the FBI and recorded Yust confessing to killing Kopetsky. But there was no body and no physical evidence.
Until those remains were found in 2017 and Yust was charged with the murder of both young women.
The trial would include testimony from former girlfriends of Yust who spoke to his abusive tendencies. One of them alleged Yust had killed three kittens in front of her.
A jury ultimately found Yust guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kara Kopetsky and guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Jessica Runions.
For the families, Yust’s time in prison will only provide some solace for their lifetime of pain.
“She was such a bright, shining light that was snuffed out too early and too soon,” said Kopetsky’s parents. “Kara was kind, Kara was affectionate, Kara was responsible, Kara was amazing.”