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Opening Arguments Begin In Trial Of Kylr Yust, Charged in Murders of Kara Kopetsky And Jessica Runio

 Kyle Yust is accused of killing Kara Kopetsky, left, and Jessica Runions. His trial started Monday.
Kansas City Police Department via AP
Kyle Yust is accused of killing Kara Kopetsky, left, and Jessica Runions. His trial started Monday.

The first day in the long-awaited double murder trial of Kylr Yust, 32, was a short one. After opening arguments, Cass County Judge William B. Collins dismissed the jury of 13 women and three men, telling them to sequester in their rooms until 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when testimony will begin. They were also instructed to ignore media coverage of the case, not to post anything to their social platforms, and not to discuss the case outside the courtroom.

Jury members were selected from the St. Louis area, making the trip across the state this morning, to prevent any bias local residents might have resulting from the extensive publicity and emotion surrounding the murders of 17-year-old Kara Kopetsky in 2007 and 21-year-old Jessica Runions in 2016.

Cass County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Butler wasted little time making his case in the opening arguments, describing how the defense will present evidence that Yust allegedly killed both young women “with his hands.”

Court documents outline how Yust allegedly choked both women to death, and disposed of their bodies in roughly the same wooded location south of Belton, Missouri.

“After killing Jessica, he went back to ‘his spot,’ and he threw Jessica Runions' body in the same spot he had thrown Kara’s years before,” Butler said.

Defense attorney Sharon Turlington spent the better part of an hour laying out a narrative that seeks to prove that Yust had alibis for the prosecution’s evidence linking him to the murders of the two young women. Turlington said the defense will prove police mismanaged the investigation and that the case against Yust is not based on any physical evidence.

“Another thing you’ll learn about this case,” she said, “is that there is no physical evidence, not one hair or drop of blood connecting Kylr to these homicides."

Yust was charged with murder late in 2017 after a mushroom hunter came across human remains in the area of Y Highway and 233rd Street in Cass County. Testing revealed the skeletal remains were those of Kopetsky and Runions.

Judge Collins said testimony would begin at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday and continue through Saturday.

Copyright 2021 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Laura Ziegler began her career at KCUR as a reporter more than 20 years ago. She became the news director in the mid 1980's and in 1988, went to National Public Radio in Washington, D.C. as a producer for Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon.