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Kylr Yust murder trial: Prosecution, defense present opening statements on 1st day

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Posted at 4:35 PM, Apr 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 19:01:54-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After nearly 14 years since his first alleged crime, Kylr Yust's double-murder trial began Monday at the Cass County Justice Center in Harrisonville.

Yust is charged with first-degree murder in the 2007 death of Kara Kopetsky and 2016 death of Jessica Runions.

41 Action News crews in the courtroom reported that Yust was dressed in a suit and tie, with clean cut hair and only a portion of a neck tattoo showing.

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Defendant Kylr Yust in a Cass County, Missouri, court room on April 5, 2021.

Kopetsky’s and Runions’ families were seated in the first two rows of the courtroom and occasionally leaned on each other for support, 41 Action News crews reported.

Motion hearings were held Monday morning, and court reconvened shortly before 2:30 p.m., when jurors arrived from St. Charles County. As they filed in, they did not look at Yust, and Yust did not look at them.

Fifteen jurors (accounting for three alternates) were sworn in and Judge William Collins read them instructions, including asking them not to conduct their own research about the case or talk with other people about the case.

Opening statements began subsequently.

The prosecution presented a succinct statement, highlighting reports that Yust was extremely possessive of past girlfriends, including Kopetsky and Runions.

The prosecution said his jealousy of their involvement with other men was motive for their murders.

The defense’s opening statements, which were noticeably longer, focused on Yust’s innocence and how they planned to present that to the jurors.

Yust’s defense team told jurors they would shed light on multiple alleged confessions and their client’s whereabouts when the murders occurred.

In one instance, Yust attorney Sharon Turlington told the jury Yust spoke to one young woman wearing a wire to record the conversation for evidence.

She said that young woman acted like it was really hot for Yust, who was in a death metal band and a tattoo artist, to have have killed the young woman.

Turlington said Yust thought by telling her he killed the girls, she might have sex with him.

The defense also cast doubt on some witness testimony and several aspects of the investigation, noting one “rogue” investigator who they said interrogated witnesses outside his capacity as a Kansas City, Missouri, police office using improper techniques.

Much of their argument centered around media coverage and how quickly and singularly Yust was focused on as a suspect.

As they closed their statement, the defense team brought up Yust’s step-brother, Jessep Carter, and appeared to introduce him as an alternative suspect, pointing out his whereabouts are unaccounted for for several hours during the window in which Runions disappeared.

Carter died by suicide in prison in 2018.

Collins ended proceedings for the day around 3:15 p.m., to give the jury time to settle into the hotel.

The trial resumes with witness testimony at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

As this trial gets underway, 41 Action News wanted to bring you the stories of Yust's alleged victims. Hear our "Journey for Justice" podcast mini-series in the player below or via your preferred podcast app.

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.