KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A private investigator who worked with the family of Kara Kopetsky expressed relief on Thursday hours after murder charges were filed against Kylr Yust. Yust faces two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions, as well as two charges for abandoning the girls' bodies.
Marlene Rockwell volunteered to look into the case a few years after Kopetsky went missing.
On Thursday, she said the charges against Yust would help lead Kopetsky’s case one step closer to justice.
“This is a long time coming,” she explained. “I'm sure for the Runions, it seems like eternity, but this is a long time coming."
Rockwell joined the case around four years after Kopetsky disappeared. Kopetsky was last seen leaving Belton High School in May 2007. She was 17 years old.
Investigators said Yust was Kopetsky's ex-boyfriend. Kopetsky also received an order of protection against Yust in May 2007 after she told police that Yust kidnapped her when she was leaving work, according to court documents.
Runions was last seen in September 2016 when witnesses say she left a party with Yust. She was 21 years old.
Soon after analyzing her disappearance, Rockwell suspected that Kopetsky was a victim of a homicide.
“She didn't have the knowledge or skill to disappear,” the private investigator explained. “She left all of her money and belongings behind."
Through her investigation, Rockwell searched around various areas and interviewed numerous people who knew Kopetsky. Her search efforts included looking around the area of woods in Cass County where a mushroom hunter found remains earlier this year.
“We've pulled over right there on the right side of the road, but looked across the street,” she explained. “I’ve been behind it. I've been in front of it. I've been to the side of it. I just never went up that hill and through that barbed wire fence."
Rockwell was never able to find Kopetsky’s body, but knew justice would some day come in the case.
Following the announcement of murder charges against Yust on Thursday, Rockwell said she kept both Kara’s and Jessica’s parents in her thoughts.
“It's kind of euphoric almost that after all this time it's really happening,” she explained. “It really means that from the hands of Kylr Yust, there won't be another Rhonda Beckford or Jaime Runions."