Kara Kopetsky, 17, vanished 9 years ago. Her mother, Rhonda Beckford, last saw her on May 4, 2007.
That Friday morning, Beckford said Kopetsky wanted to walk to school so she could smoke a cigarette on the way. Beckford said once Kopetsky got to school, she received a phone call from her daughter asking her to drop off a book she forgot at home.
"I told her I would bring the book to school, wash her clothes and of course you tell your kid like you do every time you talk to them, you know, that you love them and you'll see them later," said Beckford.
That was the last time Beckford spoke to her daughter. Kopetsky never came home from school that afternoon, and never showed up for her part-time job.
Kopetsky’s connection to Kylr Yust
The weekend Kopetsky went missing, Belton police interviewed her friends and family, including her on-again, off-again boyfriend Kylr Yust.
The Beckfords said Yust and Kopetsky started dating in the fall of 2006.
"I was pretty unsettled with him if you will, but you know, Kara had feelings for him," said Jim Beckford, Kopetsky’s stepfather.
Over time, they said they noticed signs of abuse, including bruises on their daughter’s arm.
Rhonda Beckford took Kopetsky to file a protection order against Yust. In that order, Kopetsky wrote, "I am unsure of what he will do next because the abuse has gotten worse over time."
KCPD police reports
Kansas City police took reports connected to Kopetsky's disappearance.
In one report, a friend of Yust told police that the day Kopetsky went missing, she called him asking if he wanted to hang out with her and Yust. He said the call was made shortly after 10:30 a.m., roughly the time Kopetsky was last seen on surveillance video leaving Belton High School. That friend said Yust later told him not to tell anyone he was with Kopetsky that day.
Another friend told police Yust came over the day after Kopetsky went missing asking for a change of clothing.
Multiple police reports include friends of Yust stating he admitted to them that he killed Kopetsky. One friend said Yust admitted to her death the winter of 2007. He told police he asked Yust to stop talking about it because he was afraid of what he would hear.
A former girlfriend of Yust's told police while Yust was strangling her he told her, "I've killed people before, even ex-girlfriends out of sheer jealousy." Yust was later charged with abuse and sentenced to probation.
"It was something we suspected all along,” said Jim Beckford. “But then when you see it in a report you know naturally you're shocked and surprised and you think it is going to go somewhere.”
Yust was never charged in connection to Kopetsky’s disappearance.
Belton Police Lieutenant Brad Swanson said there is not enough evidence to charge Yust with a crime, especially without a crime scene or a body. He said all the reports amount to is hearsay evidence.
"All you have is somebody saying they did something,” he said. “They can turn right back around and say I was lying.”
Swanson said there is also a problem with double jeopardy. The statue of double jeopardy states a person cannot be charged with the same crime more than one time. Therefore, if Yust was charged and found not guilty he couldn’t be charged again.
It’s a risk the Beckfords are willing to take.
"Circumstantially, I feel we have a very strong case,” said Kopetsky’s mom. “I feel that a jury or even a judge would find beyond a reasonable doubt that Kylr is definitely responsible for Kara's disappearance, of murder.”
Swanson said he still receives tips, and sightings, that Kopetsky is alive. However, he said at this point they are looking for a body.
“Is it possible that she could be living down in Springfield by an assumed name? Sure, it's possible,” Swanson said. “But I am going to go under the assumption that probably not, and we are going to look for evidence of a crime.”
The Beckfords also believe their daughter is dead. Now, they just want some type of resolution.
Jessica Runions’s disappearance
Yust is now tied to the disappearance of 21-year-old Jessica Runions. Runions was last seen leaving a party with Yust on September 8.
Runions’s car was later found torched and abandoned near 95th Street and Blue River Road. Yust is behind bars, charged with burning Runions’s car. It is the only charge he faces in relation to Runions’s disappearance.
Both Belton police and the Beckfords are hopeful Runions’s disappearance may lead to new clues to find Kopetsky.
"If Kansas City or somebody can find what happened with Jessica, that might give us a new direction lately to look for Kara's remains," Swanson said.
The Beckfords have this message for Yust.
"It's time for you to man up, Kylr, and give it up," said Jim Beckford.
Ali Hoxie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org