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Kylr Yust’s fate in hands of jurors as double murder trial comes to a close

Bill Lukitsch , Luke Nozicka, Katie Moore

Closing arguments were made in Cass County Circuit Court on Wednesday as a jury began deliberating over the fate of Kylr Yust, a Kansas City man accused of killing two girlfriends in separate incidents roughly 10 years apart.

Over the course of the trial, prosecutors sought to portray Yust as a violent and merciless killer who took their lives because he could not stand to see either become romantically involved with someone else. Yust’s defense team, meanwhile, cast doubt on the investigation and its conclusions, saying there is no physical evidence that connects Yust to the killings.

In 2017, Yust, 32, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kara Kopetsky, 17, and Jessica Runions, 21. Kopetsky was reported missing in May 2007, and Runions was last seen alive in September 2016.

Yust had been linked to both of the young women, but their cases were long-running mysteries in the Kansas City area until a mushroom hunter found their remains in April 2017 in a wooded area south of Belton. At that point, Kopetsky had been missing for more than 10 years. Yust was charged six months later.

Earlier Wednesday, Yust took the witness stand and testified that he did not kill Kopetsky or Runions. He instead accused his half brother, Jessep Carter, who died by suicide in 2018.

Yust later referred to his half-brother as a “serial killer” and suggested Carter turned the attention of authorities toward him to “cover his tracks.”

“I don’t know what exactly happened to Kara,” Yust testified, later adding: “I didn’t do anything to either of them.”

Yust’s testimony capped off the defense’s case in a trial that has spanned a little more than a week. The trial began April 5, roughly 3 1/2 years after the charges were first brought against Yust. A jury was brought in from St. Charles County due to the high amount of publicity surrounding the case.

In her closing arguments Wednesday, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Julie Tolle advised the jury to use reason and common sense to find Yust guilty of first-degree murder in the killings of Kopetsky and Runions, saying the defense’s presentations — including Yust’s testimony — are “just not reasonable.”

Tolle reminded jurors about wiretapped conversations recorded by Yust’s ex-girlfriend, Katelynn Farris, at the request of the FBI. In it, Yust claimed he strangled Kopetsky and threw her body into the woods, Tolle said.

A week before Kopetsky went missing, Yust kidnapped her, Tolle said. She described him as an “obsessive, jealous, pathetic boyfriend” who could not handle getting dumped. He wasn’t going to let her get away, and he didn’t, Tolle said.

Yust confessed to six people over the years and now wants jurors to believe they all made it up, Tolle said.

Attorney Sharon Turlington, of Yust’s defense team, accused prosecutors of bringing a case against Yust unsupported by concrete proof. She pointed to the lack of physical evidence, the timelines presented by prosecutors and earlier statements provided by witnesses in supporting the argument of his innocence.

“Somehow Kylr is supposed to have pulled off two murders without leaving a trace,” Turlington said, later saying there is no DNA linking Yust to either crime.

In wrapping up her closing remarks, Turlingron asked the jurors to deliver a not-guilty verdict in both killings.

“It’s going to be for you to decide now,” she said, adding: “You all have to talk and you all have to make a decision, and I ask that you look at the actual evidence in the case.”