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Friends of Kara Kopetsky relieved, share memories of the outgoing teenager

Posted at 8:14 PM, Aug 17, 2017
and last updated 2020-01-03 18:49:25-05

The missing person sign for Kara Kopetsky has been sitting on Route 58 in Belton for years, urging people to help find her. 

That search is over, with a set of remains found in rural Cass County in April identified as Kopetsky. The focus is set on justice. 

Jennifer Smith was friends with Kopetsky from eighth grade up through the day she went missing from Belton High School on May 4, 2007. 

They were carefree teenagers, hanging out at each other's houses and getting into some trouble. Those are memories Smith will never forget. 

"She was always happy, energetic, and very uplifting, just always positive," Smith said of Kopetsky. "She was always there for me. She was a really good friend." 

Smith pulled out a brown skirt tucked away in her closet that she borrowed from Kopetsky in the 10th grade. 

"I gave most of what I had to Kara's parents, but I kept this," Smith said, holding up the long, flowy skirt. 

The skirt is a reminder of their special friendship and means even more now that Kopetsky is finally coming home. 

"I remember we liked the Snow Patrol song. That was like, our song together. Chasing Cars. We would call each other anytime that was on and laugh about that," Smith remembered.

Another girl in Kopetsky's friend group called Smith the day the news came out that the remains were identified. Smith said she was cooking dinner for her family at the time, but it hit her hard that night. 

"We were really relieved to find that that was confirmed. I knew eventually that they would find her body, but I think we all knew what really happened," Smith said. 

Kopetsky's disappearance hit Mike Miller hard, a former educator at Belton High School, who is also Kopetsky's neighbor. 

"Every time I drove by their house, I would peek over there and think, dang it, Kara. What could have someone done differently," Miller said. 

Miller worked with Kopetsky during an after-school program for more than a year. 

"She was a little ornery, a little funny. My type of kid. But I will always remember, she had one of those grins that when she smiled it just went ear to ear.  God, it was hard to get on her about anything because she just had that smile. I'll always remember her smile," Miller said. 

Smith is married with five kids now, major milestones that Kopetsky missed and never got to achieve herself. 

"I definitely break down at times, and especially when I think about my kids and her and what she could've had," Smith said. 

But it's comforting to Smith that loved ones will soon have a place to visit Kopetsky again.

"I think about that a lot. I wish I could talk to her again. I feel like I would know exactly how she would act, just really happy and cheerful," Smith said. 

Afton Smith, Kopetsky's good friend, told 41 Action News the identification hit her hard. She gave us this statement: 

"I feel relieved that she can finally rest in peace in a proper place. But until there is justice, there still is no closure. There is still her story untold that we have to figure out and that, to me, is just as important as finding her. It's hard after 10 years knowing that your best friend went through something horrible, just not knowing exactly what. Not being able to reach out to help because it was too late." 

Rhonda and Jim Beckford, Kopetsky's parents, said they are now planning a service and looking forward to a prosecution.

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