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Kylr Yust defense team off to rocky start as it opens case Monday

yust trial day 7
Posted at 4:09 PM, Apr 12, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kylr Yust's defense team went to work Monday to show their client's innocence in the murders of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions.

Yust is charged with first-degree murder in the women's 2007 and 2016 deaths.

LISTEN: Journey for Justice podcast trial update #7

The prosecution rested its case Saturday after hearing from the mushroom hunter who found Kopetsky and Runions' remains, as well as the medical examiner and toxicologist who analyzed the remains.

Monday, the defense began calling witnesses to the stand, including corrections officers, people who said they saw or had contact with Kopetsky after she disappeared, and former representatives of Yust's.

The jury spent much of the short day outside the courtroom as the state challenged the relevancy and accuracy of much of the witness testimony.

Judge William Collins ultimately ruled on which witnesses the jury would hear from.

BLOG: Defense in Yust trial paints picture of other suspects

Collins decided testimony about Jessep Carter's suicide in prison would not be presented to the jury because it was irrelevant to the case.

Carter, Yust's step-brother, is one of the people the defense appears to be presenting as an alternative suspect.

The state argued the defense was trying to reach a point of discussion on a coded note Carter left behind, to which they have several objections.

The defense wanted to argue that Carter admitted to killing people in the note and would bring in an expert to weigh in on what the note could have meant.

At multiple points, the state reiterated that it's Yust who is on trial, not Carter.

In opening statements, the defense told the jury investigators focused on Yust early and singularly in the women's deaths. The defense said they would present the jury with other possible suspects and prove that law enforcement did not follow up on those leads.

One of those people appeared on the witness stand Monday but only testified as an offer of proof to Judge Collins.

Billy Bayes was a possible suspect in Kopetsky's disappearance.

The defense alleged in a motion to dismiss the case earlier this year that Bayes made statements that he had knowledge of Kopetsky's death.

However, under oath in court, Bayes said he never made those statements and did not know Joseph Stauch, a person to whom he supposedly made the claims.

The defense asked Bayes if he ever told Stauch that he was at a party with Kopetsky, that she was given drugs, that she overdosed, to which Bayes said no.

The defense asked if Bayes told Stauch Kopetsky died in his presence and Bayes denied it again. The prosecution objected, saying that Bayes's answer has been the same.

"Did you ever tell anyone else that you had any involvement in the death of Kara Kopetsky?" the defense continued.

"No ma'am," Bayes said again.

"Or in the disposal of her body?" the defense asked.

"No ma'am," Bayes said.

Stauch is set to testify Tuesday, then Judge Collins will decide if the jury will hear Bayes' testimony.

After a lunch break, Yust's former public defenders were called to the stand, where they were questioned about interactions with Yust's family, including Carter and his aunt.

One of Yust's former attorneys, Robert Lundt, had gone to his mother's house to get information about Yust's background. Lundt testified that Carter was also at the house and said, "You tell Kylr he better plead guilty."

Judge Collins will not permit the jury to hear Lundt's testimony.

The defense previously argued Yust's alibi in the Kopetsky disappearance was not adequately investigated. He was allegedly visiting the aunt at a nursing home with his grandparents.

Collins ruled to allow testimony from a paralegal who was involved in obtaining records from the nursing home and a Belton QuikTrip where Kopetsky might have been seen. However, there were issues with the documents and he said he wasn't sure what value it added to the case.

The paralegal found out that the nursing home documents had been thrown away so they didn't exist. The prosecution argued she never got a subpoena to begin with.

Jurors also heard from a criminal investigator who worked for the Missouri public defender's office.

She did some work on the Yust case, which included timing the drives from important locations, including Yust's home – a home where he and Carter burned something in burn barrels – and to the scene where Runions' car was found burned out.

She did not time the drive to the scene where the remains were eventually found, and said she only did what she was instructed to do.

The defense also had issues Monday with some witnesses not showing up. One of which showed up late but Judge Collins will not let the jury hear her testimony because he said it isn't relevant.

The defense plans to call 16 witnesses to the stand Tuesday.

Collins told the jury to be prepared for longer days on Tuesday and Wednesday, as he wants to hear closing statements on Thursday.

Court resumes at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

41 Action News is committed to bringing you complete coverage of the trial of Kylr Yust, the man accused in the murders of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions. Visit kshb.com/yusttrial for all our stories, case details, timeline and more.