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Hometown Tragedy: Kara & Jessica

Lindsay Patross

A Missouri community seeks answers when two young women disappear a decade apart

In 2009, Kara Kopetsky of Belton, Missouri, never returned home from school, sending her friends and family into a panic. Belton is a small, quiet community south of Kansas City. When Kopetsky disappeared, the community was left on edge. Local police indicated that she had run away, delaying investigative efforts in the early days of her disappearance. However, days turned to weeks and Kopetsky never returned home. Her family and the community of Belton never gave up the search, holding annual rallies to remind people that they wanted justice for Kara. 

Over the next decade, police and the FBI continued to receive reports about a person of interest, Kylr Yust. Yust was Kopetsky’s alleged abusive ex-boyfriend whom she had filed a restraining order against only four days prior to her disappearance. Although multiple reports and tips were made to police, they never had enough evidence to make an arrest and the case went unsolved. That is until 2016, when another young woman, 21-year-old Jessica Runions, was reported missing after being seen leaving a party with Kylr Yust. When police connected the dots between the two cases, the race was on to not only find Jessica, but also Kylr Yust, and–the community hoped–Kara, too.

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