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Kylr Yust double murder trial: Your questions answered

yust on witness stand murder trial
Posted at 4:12 PM, Apr 15, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the jury deliberates in the double murder trial of Kylr Yust, questions are still swirling about what happened in court.

Yust faces charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kara Kopetsky (2007) and Jessica Runions (2016).

Below, read answers 41 Action News compiled to questions from viewers about the case and trial.

Q: I want to know why the police never took action years ago when multiple witnesses came forward telling them Yust had confessed. There needs to be more accountability here.

A: It’s difficult to charge a suspect for first-degree murder charge without a body or much other physical evidence, as was the case for Kopetsky’s investigation until her remains were found with Runions’ in 2016.

It is also worth noting Yust’s alleged confessions were made over the course of several years to several different people, and those people in many cases did not immediately go to their police with their report.

Q: How did the Belton police bungle the investigation of Kara so badly that Yust was able to do this again?

A: Throughout this case, the defense has alleged there were multiple errors in the investigation of their client’s case.

Among them, Yust’s attorneys say, was failure by Belton police to adequately corroborate Yust’s alibi and prove his whereabouts before records became unavailable.

As mentioned, the case would have been extremely difficult to prosecute without Kopetsky’s remains, which weren’t located until nearly a decade after her disappearance alongside Runions’.

Q: Why did the defense keep referencing Officer Meierer initially?

A: Joshua Meierer was a Kansas City, Missouri, police officer who conducted an extra-jurisdictional investigation into this case.

He’s often been referred to as a “rogue” officer as he was instructed to stop and did not.

The defense alleges his involvement was not only improper, but also affected the official investigation.

Yust’s defense team argued the Meierer’s interviews of witnesses in this case cross-contaminated their testimony, especially in a community so small and tight-knit.

Meierer was on the list of witnesses who could be called to testify during the trial but he ultimately was not summoned by either the prosecution or defense.

Q: Many witnesses in and out of the trial have said Kylr killed more than just Jessica and Kara. Why is no one talking about those accusations?

A: Candice Matthews, a former girlfriend of Yust’s who dated him before Jessica Runions, did testify he told her he’d killed “ex-girlfriends (plural) out of sheer jealousy” in the past.

However, there has not been further information from officials about such occurrences and Yust is only accused in the deaths of Kopetsky and Runions at this time.

Q: Was Kylr’s killing of one of his ex-girlfriend’s kittens brought into evidence during the trial?

A: Matthews previously told police Yust had killed three kittens in front of her.

That information was not brought up during her testimony in court.

Q: Who is Jessep Carter and why does the defense keep bringing him up?

A: Carter was Yust’s half-brother. He died by suicide in 2018 while he was in jail on an arson charge.

The defense has alleged Carter is actually responsible for Kopetsky’s and Runions’ deaths.

The jury did not hear much of the testimony about Carter, as the prosecution argued its relevancy and accuracy. The judge agreed most of the testimony was not relevant to this trial.

The prosecution repeatedly emphasized to the jury it is Yust on trial, not Carter.

Among the testimonies excluded was that of a prison codes expert the defense hired to interpret a note Carter left in his cell.

While the expert said the note could allude to killing girls, there were as many as 11 different meanings and the findings were not conclusive.

Yust himself accused his half-brother in the murders, at one point calling him a serial killer.

The prosecution, however, noted Yust waited nearly 14 years to tell his version of the story.

Q: More about Kylr’s background. Growing up? People who knew him? His parents not in his life?

A: Yust’s testimony Wednesday provided some insight into this.

He testified that he lived with his grandparents growing up, and didn’t have good relationships with either of his parents.

Yust said his mother, step-father and Carter, lived together.

The strained relationship with his mother in particular was mentioned in court.

The prosecution played a jailhouse recording between Yust and his mother in which she begs him to tell her where Runions’ body is.

Yust told jurors he played into her narrative because he wanted to hurt his mother, not because he had actually killed Runions.

Yust said he hasn’t spoken to his mother since that phone call years ago.

Q: More on who Jessica was, who Kara was. More than just the Kylr part.

A: Both Runions’ and Kopetsky’s mothers took the witness stand during the trial.

Kopetsky’s mother, Rhonda Beckford, was the first witness called for the prosecution.

“Kara was pretty much friendly with everybody,” Beckford shared. “She was the kind of girl who would talk to anybody. It didn’t matter what kind of social class they ran with.”

She also read a poem her daughter wrote about her relationship with Yust.

“I want to go back but we have seen too much bad… Pressing charges on the one I love, scared of the person I used to love… I’m through,” Kopetsky wrote.

Jamie Runions also had a chance to tell jurors about her daughter, who she said loved her sisters dearly.

"Jessica used to call me mama bear, but she was a mama bear herself. She'd been taking care of her sisters since they were babies," Jamie Runions said.

Q: Was Yust seen the day Kara Kopetsky disappeared on Y Highway near where he allegedly left her body?

A: Ryan Talley testified during the second day of the trial that he saw Yust’s truck on May 4, 2007.

He said the sighting was around noon and no later than 2 p.m.

Talley described Yust’s direction of travel, saying he followed him south on Y Highway for a period of time.

He said he’d never seen Yust’s truck in the area traveling that way before, but knew it was Yust’s truck because he’d seen it before at a friend’s house.

Runions’ and Kopetsky’s remains were eventually found in a wooded area near Y Highway and East 233rd Street.

Q: What was the nature of the relationship between Jessica Runions and Kylr Yust? Yust and Runions’ boyfriend, Jaxxon Mallett, were friends and there’s been some indication it was an affair.

A: In court, Mallett testified he and Runions began having trouble in their relationship after moving in together.

While they continued to live together, they slept in separate spaces, according to Mallett, and were working on their relationship.

During this time, Runions and Yust started dating, but it appeared to be an on-again-off-again relationship based on a series of email exchanges read in court.

The prosecution alleged Runions’ back-and-forth between Yust and Mallett enraged Yust, who was known to be a jealous, possessive partner, and could have been motive for her murder.

Q: Is Yust’s legal team made up of public defenders? If not, who is paying for his defense team?

A: Yust’s defense team is made up of three attorneys: Sharon Turlington, Matt Vigil and Molly Hastings.

Turlington and Vigil are public defenders.

Hastings owns The Hastings Law Firm, LLC, and agreed to do Yust’s case pro bono, according to his testimony.

Q: Why was the case removed from CaseNet?

A: CaseNet is a system through which people can access information about cases, whether criminal in nature or not, in Missouri.

Yust’s case was publicly available on the platform until his attorneys requested the entire case be sealed.

The judge agreed, but 41 Action News filed a motion to unseal it, which was approved on April 5.

It’s not clear why Yust’s team wanted the records to be sealed.

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.