Family members of a young Raymore woman missing since Thursday see an ominous parallel to a girl who disappeared in 2007.
The family has been told by her friends that Kylr Yust — the off-and-on boyfriend of Kara Kopetsky, then 17, before she disappeared nine years ago — was the last person seen last week with 21-year-old Jessica Runions of Raymore.
He was taken into custody Sunday and was being held in Missouri’s Benton County jail.
Multiple Kansas City police sources confirmed that Yust, 27, was a person of interest in the Runions case but wasn’t the only person being sought for questioning. Authorities arrested Yust at 8:30 a.m. Sunday on charges of “knowingly burning” Runion’s 2012 black Chevy Equinox, which police found about 2 a.m. Saturday near 95th Street and Blue River Road.
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“Right now I have positive news that my daughter wasn’t in the car when they found it,” Jamie S. Runions told The Star on Sunday. “And that’s what’s going to keep me going right now. There’s hope.”
Missouri Search and Rescue scoured two large areas twice looking for Runions, without results, according to a Kansas City police news release.
Yust’s grandfather said Sunday night that he doesn’t know what’s going on with his grandson.
“I don’t know what they’re saying. I don’t know what all went on,” said the grandfather, who asked that his name not be used. “He hasn’t been around for a while.”
The Raymore woman was at a gathering of friends Thursday evening with Yust, against whom Kopetsky had filed for an order of protection days before she vanished in May 2007. Since that gathering, no one has reported seeing Runions. She failed to meet her mother at a doctor’s office on Friday for a critical follow-up to an appendectomy.
Jessica’s mother doesn’t know Yust and said she only knew he was a longtime friend of her daughter’s boyfriend. On Sunday, Jamie S. Runions spoke with Kopetsky’s mother, Rhonda Beckford, and leaned on her for support.
“People say they understand what you’re going through, but they don’t really understand. She does,” Runions told The Star. “She knows this numbness I’m feeling, this anger I’m feeling because I can’t do anything.”
Beckford said when she first learned of the missing Raymore woman, and that Jessica Runions had last been seen with Yust, her heart sank.
The last text Runions received from Jessica was Wednesday evening. Jessica wrote: “Sweet dreams.” And her mom responded by sharing a selfie of herself with Jessica’s little sister.
Jessica then sent back a picture of her with her cat, Tig.
On Thursday around 2 p.m., Jessica responded to a post on Facebook. From there, her mother heard nothing.
Jessica works in the restaurant at the Foxwood Springs senior living community in Raymore. A family member said she’s moved up to baker.
A text message Runions sent Jessica around 8 p.m. Thursday wasn’t read. After that, calls to her phone went straight to voicemail, as if the device was turned off.
“This girl can never be without her phone on,” Runions said. “Her phone will be on silent, but it’s never turned off.”
On Friday, Runions went to the doctor’s office to meet Jessica there. She never showed. But her mother knew how important the appointment was. Jessica needed clearance after her surgery to go back to work. Runions reported her daughter missing Friday night.
Detectives spent Saturday night interviewing everyone they could find who may have seen Runions in the past few days.
Family and friends wait by the phone.
“She’s just the sweetest girl,” said Linda Runions, Jessica’s grandmother. “She never hardly gets mad. She’s a loving sister. She’s loving to everyone.
“We’re all praying every single minute,” Linda Runions said. “Just to hear that she’s OK.”
Jamie Runions doesn’t want to focus her attention on Yust. The police will do that, she said.
She wants to make sure everyone sees Jessica’s face and knows she needs help.
“If she’s trying to get away and runs, I want someone to find her,” she said. “That is my hope. … If she’s seen, I want someone to say, ‘That’s Jessica Runions, I saw her on Facebook.’
“I just want her home.”
On April 24, 2007, Kara wrote on her Myspace page: “So life hasn’t been the greatest for me lately, over the last 9 months of my life iv dedicated my life to kylr ... I made no other time for any of my friends nor my family. over those 9 months i forgot the person that I was. im trying to find that person again.”
Police said then that a few days before she disappeared, Yust and Kara had a conflict that resulted in an order of protection requiring Yust to stay away from her.
Kara hasn’t been heard from since.
Yust was never charged in the case, although he did serve time in Jackson County for stealing, according to online court records.
Earlier this month, Yust was ordered by the federal Bureau of Prisons to serve a weekend in confinement for an undisclosed probation violation. He had been sentenced to 45 months in federal prison in 2013 on a drug trafficking charge and was placed on three years’ supervised probation.
A security camera showed Kara leaving Belton High School just before 10:30 a.m on May 4, 2007. That was about the same time as the last call on her cellphone. Law enforcement officers have searched various locations over the years, but the mystery continues.
Kara decided to walk to school on that Friday morning. She did not come home, and she did not show up for work after school. Kara’s mother and her stepfather, Jim Beckford, reported her missing that evening.
More than 50 people turned out in May for an annual walk on Missouri 58 in Belton to remember Kara. The walk takes place on the closest Sunday to May 4 each year.
A website, searchingforkara.com, has more information. Signs along the highway read “Still searching. Nine years is too long” and “Kara is loved. We won’t give up.”
Now, Rhonda Beckford’s focus is on supporting Jessica’s mom. When the two talked she could understand Jamie Runions’ need to concentrate on the positive.
“When you’re going through something like this, you have to hold on to hope,” Beckford said. “If you don’t, you end up in a very dark place. That’s what helps you go on, that sliver of hope you have to hold on to, because you just don’t know.”
She clung to that for years, she said. But admits, after nine years without her daughter, that’s harder to do.
“As time goes by and coming up on 10 years, if there was any way she could come home or contact us, she would have,” Beckford said.
With Yust in custody, she hoped her family will learn more about Kara.
“That is what we pray for every day,” Beckford told The Star. “To get resolution to this, to find Kara’s remains and put her to rest.”
The Star’s Matt Campbell and Ian Cummings contributed to this story.