A Missouri man is on trial for killing two women—nearly 10 years apart from one another—after they allegedly spurned his advances.
Kylr Yust, 32, is facing two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jessica Runions and Kara Kopetsky, who prosecutors allege he killed with his bare hands before hiding their bodies in the woods, according to local station WDAF.
Kopetsky, who dated Yust for nine months, had taken out a restraining order against him just four days before she vanished at age 17. She was last seen leaving Belton High School in May of 2007, KMBC reports.
Runions, 21, disappeared nearly a decade later in 2016 after she was last seen leaving a party with Yust. The remains of both women were found by a mushroom hunter in a Cass County farm field in 2017.
Cass County prosecutor Ben Butler told jurors Yust killed the women after they ultimately rejected him.
“When Kara tried to end her relationship with Yust because of abuse, Yust said, ‘If I can’t have her nobody can,’” Butler said in his opening statements Monday, according to WDAF.
He laid out a similar motive for Runion’s death.
“Yust murdered Jessica with deliberation same as he did Kara before because no one else can have Jessica either,” he said, adding that after killing Runion, he went back to “his spot” to dispose of the second body.
During the ongoing trial, prosecutors have tried to paint a picture of a violent man with a history of abuse against women.
Former girlfriend Candice St. Clair took the stand Wednesday to describe her own allegedly violent relationship with Yust, whom she began to date when was 17 years old, WDAF reports. St. Clair moved in with Yust in 2011 after she had been kicked out of her house for smoking weed, but the romance was marred with violence, she said.
St. Clair recalled one harrowing incident in July 2011 when she tried to pack her bags to leave him. She said Yust came home drunk, got on top of her and tried to “crush my trachea” with both hands as he told her she was “not allowed” to leave.
As he strangled her, St. Clair said he told her “I have killed other ex-girlfriends in jealousy. I will kill you before you can let another scream out of your throat.”
During the attack, St. Clair testified that Yust punched her legs, repeatedly strangled her and drew a pentagram on her head. After drawing the symbol, she said he started to speak in tongues and she pretended to be possessed by a demon who was going through an exorcism to try to get him to stop.
She eventually lost consciousness and woke up to find him, holding her and whispering “I love you” into her ear, the local station reports. St. Clair left him July 25, 2011 after discovering he had been cheating on her and reported the violence to police the next month.
Yust later pleaded guilty to one count of domestic violence and was given two years of probation. The couple reconciled later that year, but later ended their relationship for good.
Another ex-girlfriend Katelynn Farris also took the stand Wednesday to tell jurors how Yust had confessed to killing Kopetsky while she was wearing a wire for the FBI, KMBC reports.
Farris said Yust told her that he and Kopetsky had bantered back and forth by his car, but she had refused to get in, so he grabbed her by the hair and put her into the vehicle.
“He had put her in the car, and she was never seen again,” Farris said.
Jurors heard the recording of the FBI wiretap, which took place on Feb. 11, 2011, after Farris’ testimony.
Nick Yeates, a former friend and bandmate of Yust, also testified that Yust had confessed to killing Kopetsky while the two were at a Burger King after a party.
Yeates testified that Yust said he killed the teen because “she didn’t love him. He didn’t want anyone else to have her.”
Yet, Yust's defense attorneys have argued that there is no physical evidence linking him to either murder.
Defense attorney Sharon Turlington said in her opening statements Monday that “not one hair or drop of blood” connects Yust to the homicides, KCUR reports.
She also argued that Yust had alibis for the killings and had spent time with his grandparents, his aunt and attended band practice on the day Kopetsky disappeared.
Turlington also pointed to phone records that seemed to suggest that Yust and Runions had not been together as prosecutors claimed and suggested Yust’s now deceased half-brother, Jessup Carter, as an alternative suspect in the case.
“Kylr Yust is innocent,” she said. “This is a long and complicated case that spans more than a decade.”