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UPDATES: Jury hands down maximum sentence in Yust case

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Rhonda Beckford at Yust sentencing.jpeg
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Posted at 8:29 AM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 16:11:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — 1:33 p.m. | Yust's formal sentencing is set for June 7.

1:28 p.m. | The jury is recommending the maximum sentence of 15 years for the count of voluntary manslaughter and life in prison for the count of second-degree murder, which is capped at 30 years in Missouri.

Kylr Yust could serve up to 45 years with the opportunity for parole if the judge approves the maximum sentences to run consecutively. He will receive credit for time served.

11:16 a.m. | The jury has left the courtroom to deliberate on Yust's sentencing.

11:15 a.m. | The defense rests and Butler again approaches the jury.

“If he’s an artist, then he took the bones of Kara and Jessica, and painted them across the woods and left them there to rot. That’s not life,” Butler says.

11:13 a.m. | "Kylr Yust is worth something," Hastings says.

She tells the jury every effort's been made to paint Yust as a monster to devalue his worth.

Hastings asks the jury to fight for Yust, too.

11:07 a.m. | Defense attorney Molly Hastings is now appealing to the jury.

She said the gravity of the situation is lost on no one, the sadness in the room is palpable.

Hastings thanked the jury for returning a guilty verdict on charges that do not require him to spend the rest of his natural life in prison.

"We hope that his potential is not entirely lost on the the number that you affix to his future," Hastings says, asking the jury what they want the person on the other side of this sentence to look like.

She notes he is known as an artist, and there are actually people who like him.

11:05 a.m. | Butler argues for the maximum penalty on each count.

"You didn't ask for these decisions," he tells the jury.

"Neither did they," Butler says and points to the victims' families.

11:00 a.m. | The defense has rested. Prosecutor Ben Butler is now presenting the state's closing argument.

10:52 a.m. | Another former neighbor of Yust's is on the stand. Her son already testified.

She said she never saw Yust's mom and described his father as an irresponsible parent.

As a little boy, Yust was at her home every day.

10:47 a.m. | An unnamed witness took the stand and described Yust as a sweet, kind and generous person. This witness remained in communication with Yust while he was in jail.

10:37 a.m. | Sierra West, another friend, described Yust as very charismatic.

10:33 a.m. | The defense has called Owen W., identified as a childhood friend of Yust's.

He said they lived across the street from each other for 15 years and what he was hearing of Yust now was not the person he grew up knowing.

He also said Yust told him his father abused him around the ages of 7 or 8.

10:25 a.m. | The state has rested. The defense now begins calling people to the stand.

10:18 a.m. | Megan Runions, Jessica's sister, is telling the jury about her older sister. She describes her as her best friend and “somebody who made my bad days so much better.”

Megan said school was hard. People called her "the dead girl's sister." She attempted suicide but asked herself what Jessica would have wanted her to do. So she "picked herself up" and graduated high school.

10:08 a.m. | Jessica's father, John Runions is next on the stand. He said his daughter was larger than life.

10:07 a.m. | Jamie Runions talked about all of the things her daughter and their family are missing out on because of her death.

10:05 a.m. | Jamie Runions talked a lot about the relationship between the two girls' families. She asked the jury to take their experience into consideration.

10 a.m. | Jamie Runions talks about the emotional distress of having her daughter found dead. Lots of photos were shown to the jury.

9:54 a.m. | Jamie Runions said she googled Kylr Yust and that's when she realized he was also involved in Kara's disappearance.

9:46 a.m. | Runions said Jessica was very hardworking and close to her family.

9:45 a.m. | Jamie Runions, Jessica's mother, is next on the stand. She talks about Jessica's relationship with her sisters.

9:43 a.m. | Thomas said he looked up to his sister. He described his parents' grief at the jury verdict Thursday.

9:37 a.m. | Thomas talks about how his life changed. How all anyone wanted to talk to him about for 10 years was Kara. He is upset saying he couldn't stop it from happening to somebody else.

9:35 a.m. | Kara's brother Thomas is next on the stand. He talks about her glow and smile.

9:33 a.m. | Beckford shows the jury photos of Kara and their family and asks the jury to put themselves in the family's place.

9:27 a.m. | Jim Beckford showed bracelets he is wearing for both Kara and Jessica. The families grew very close over the years.

9:24 a.m. | Beckford said finding Kara's remains was a relief, but not the outcome they hoped for. The family had been paying Kara's cell phone bill for years just to hear her voice.

9:21 a.m. | Jim Beckford shared his last memory of Kara before she went missing.

9:17 a.m. | Jim Beckford describes Kara's character. Said she was forgiving and a friend to all.

9:16 a.m. | Jim Beckford, Kara's stepfather, talks about how much he grew to love his stepdaughter. He is emotional on the stand.

9:13 a.m. | Kopetsky said finding Kara's remains helped him begin the healing process. He was worried she would never be found.

9:10 a.m. | Kopetsky said his daughter was kind, and he fell into a depressive state after he lost her.

9:07 a.m. | Mike Kopetsky talks about his open and honest relationship with his daughter.

9:04 a.m. | Kara's father, Mike Kopetsky is up next. News outlets have not heard much from him over the years.

9 a.m. | Rhonda Beckford said she believes Kylr Yust will murder again if given the chance.

8:56 a.m. | Beckford is not satisfied with the manslaughter charge in her daughter's death. She said she's glad Kara's grandmother didn't live to see the outcome because justice was not served.

8:54 a.m. | Rhonda Beckford emphasized the fact that she didn't know what happened to her daughter for nearly a decade.

8:50 a.m. | The jury is hearing from Rhonda Beckford, Kara Kopetsky's mother.

8:49 a.m. | The defense painted a picture of Yust's difficult childhood in their opening statement.

8:47 a.m. | The state is making its opening statement in the sentencing, emphasizing the price of death.

8:39 a.m. | Court has begun. The jury will hear victim and witness impact statements.

8:30 a.m. | The sentencing phase of the Kylr Yust trial is set to begin this morning.

On Thursday, a jury found Kylr Yust guilty in the deaths of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions.

The jury found Yust guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kopetsky and guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Runions.

He was originally charged with first-degree murder in both cases.

The jury deliberated for 15 hours before handing down the verdict. Now, they will return for sentencing.

Yust faces five to 15 years for the manslaughter charge and 15 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder charge. In Missouri, that life sentence is capped at 30 years.

He will also be eligible for parole and will receive credit for time served.

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.