An FBI report has confirmed human remains found in rural Cass County in April are those of missing Belton teen Kara Kopetsky, Belton police said Wednesday.
Kopetsky was last seen leaving Belton High School in May 2007. She was 17 years old.
Lt. Brad Swanson of the Belton Police Department released the following statement:
On today's date the Belton Police along with the Cass Co. Prosecutor and Sheriff's offices were notified that the FBI had confirmed that the remains found in Cass County on April 4th were those of Kara Kopetsky.
According to the Cass County Sheriff's Office, Kopetsky's family met with Belton Police Chief James Person, Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber and Cass County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Butler regarding the identification.
In April 2017, Cass County Sheriff's deputies were called to a wooded area just south of Belton. According to police, a mushroom hunter had discovered human remains.
The next day, investigators discovered a second skull in the same area.
One set of human remains was identified as Jessica Runions, who was last seen on September 8, 2016. Her death is being investigated as a homicide.
Witnesses said Runions left a party with Kylr Yust, who is charged with burning her car.
Yust is also Kopetsky's ex-boyfriend.
Investigations by Belton police and Kansas City police are still ongoing at this time.
The announcement on Wednesday was met with relief for people who helped out in the search, including private investigator Marlene Rockwell.
"(Kopetsky's parents) are great people," she explained. "They now are getting resolution. It's an indescribable feeling."
The family hired Rockwell to find Kopetsky years after she disappeared.
Rockwell told 41 Action News that she decided to work on the case for free due to the nature of Kara's disappearance.
"I've never looked at Kara as missing. I've looked at her as a victim of a homicide," she explained. "It's a drive that wouldn't go away that I was never going to leave until this was solved."
Rockwell ended up working on the case for years by conducting multiple interviews for possible leads and holding searches, including in the area where Kopetsky's remains were found in April by a mushroom hunter.
"You search the area, you search the rock quarry, you're one person out there looking. I've probably been within a football field (of her body)," she explained. "The sheer luck of hunting mushrooms. That's what it takes sometimes."
Rockwell said the wooded area where Kopetsky's remains were found in April was always on her radar for the investigation.
"We always knew that area was a viable area," she explained. "Everybody was so close yet so far away from bringing Kara back."