KANSAS CITY – The last time anyone saw 21-year-old Jessica Runions, she was leaving a party on the night of Sept. 8, 2016. Witnesses said she wasn’t alone. They said she left the party with a 27-year-old man who had been questioned by police in the disappearance of another young woman nine years earlier.
Five months later that man sits in jail, accused of torching Jessica’s car. But the main question loved ones still want to know: Where’s Jessica?
According to police, Jessica was reported missing at 10:20 p.m. on Sept. 9th, about 25 hours after friends said she left a house party with Kylr Yust.
A few hours later, just before 2 a.m., Jessica’s black Chevy Equinox was found in South Kansas City, near a heavily wooded area. It had been set on fire. Police said the vehicle was unoccupied when they found it. It was towed and taken to their processing center.
After the sun came up, a police search team scoured the area where Jessica’s SUV had been found. Police said they searched two large areas, twice, but they found no signs of Jessica.
The next morning, Sept. 11, police arrested Yust in Edwards, Missouri, about two hours southeast of Kansas City. Yust was charged with burning Jessica’s car.
NBC affiliate KSHB-TV spoke with Yust while he was being transferred to Kansas City.
Yust’s behavior in that video probably won’t do him any favors. Neither will his background, which I’ll get to in a second.
KCTV5, the CBS affiliate in Kansas City (where this author previously worked), reported that Yust’s grandfather told police Jessica’s SUV was parked in front of his house the morning after she disappeared.
The grandfather lives about five miles from where Jessica’s car was discovered.
According to the station, investigators took a plaid shirt and an alcohol swab and Q-tip with blood on them from the grandfather’s home. They also found two live rounds of ammunition and a shirt at the home were Yust was arrested. According to KCTV5, police also took DNA samples from Yust.
When asked if he thinks his grandson had anything to do with Jessica’s disappearance, Alfred Yust said to the station’s reporter, “I don’t know.”
He also said, “Sure, I’m worried about these girls.”
It’s interesting that Alfred Yust said “these girls.” The station doesn’t explain what girls, aside from Jessica, he is talking about.
There’s a good chance he’s talking about another girl connected to his grandson, who also disappeared.
Kara Kopetsky was the off-and-on girlfriend of Kylr Yust.
According to the Kansas City Star, the 17-year-old wrote about problems she was having with Kylr on her MySpace page, a couple of weeks before she vanished.
It said: “So life hasn’t been the greatest for me lately, over the last 9 months of my life iv (sic) dedicated my life to kylr…I made no other time for any of my friends nor my family. over those 9 months i forgot the person that I was. im trying to find that person again.”
A few days before she disappeared, Kara took out a protection order against Yust.
On May 4, 2007, instead of having her mom drive her, Kara walked a few blocks to Belton High School. Then, for some reason, in the middle of the day, about 10:30 a.m., she left. Security footage from the school shows Kara walking out. It was the last time she was seen.
Investigators said the last activity on Kara’s cell phone also took place around the same time. According to SearchingForKara.com, there was no activity on Kara’s bank account and nothing missing from her room at home.
Kylr Yust was never charged in any way to Kara’s disappearance. But his connection to another young girl who disappeared nine years later, Jessica Runions, touched a nerve with Kara’s family.
Kara’s mother, Rhonda Beckford, reached out to the mother of Jessica Runions.
“People say they understand what you’re going through, but they don’t really understand. She does,” Jamie Runions told the paper.
Police have never identified Kylr Yust as a suspect in either of the girls’ disappearance.
But police and the media have looked into his background and found a disturbing history.
According to the Fox affiliate in Kansas City, one of Yust’s former girlfriends told police he tried to strangle her during a drunken rage in 2011.
“If you scream again, I will kill you faster than you can let out another scream out of your throat,” she reported him saying.
That same woman also said Yust admitted to killing before. According to her, Yust said, “I have killed people before, even ex-girlfriends out of sheer jealousy; I will kill you too.”
She also told police she saw him kill animals. In one incident, she said he repeatedly slammed their kitten on the floor until it died. In another, she said he threw a sack with live kittens inside into a creek. In a 2013 story, the same station noted the animal abuse charges were dropped.
If you have any information about either of these cases, call Kansas City Police at 816-2334-5136 or the TIPS hotline at 816-474-TIPS.