A Missouri Family’s Desperate Search to Find Missing Daughter

Police recovered Jessica Runion's missing car, but she was nowhere to be found.

ByABC News
January 6, 2017, 5:51 PM

— -- Printed maps line the hallway of John Michael Runions’ Missouri home, showing all the places his daughter’s family and friends have looked for her since she disappeared nearly four months ago.

“If we’re not out on the street, we’re looking online for new areas to search tomorrow. Our entire hallway is an enormous map of the area,” Runions told ABC News’ “20/20.” “Your loved one doesn’t just disappear, never to be heard from again, by choice. She didn’t choose to not be here at the holidays by choice.”

Jessica Runions, 21, went missing Sept. 8 after leaving a gathering at a friend’s house in Kansas City, Missouri. Her family says friends told them Jessica was last seen giving her boyfriend’s longtime friend Kylr Yust, 28, a ride home.

Her boyfriend and family grew concerned when she did not come home that night and they were unable to reach her. Runions said his daughter’s cellphone kept going straight to voicemail when they tried calling her.

Their concerns were heightened when she didn’t show up for a doctor’s appointment the next day. Her mother Jamie S. Runions said Jessica had recently had her appendix removed. She and Jessica were supposed to go together to the follow-up appointment, Jamie said.

Jessica, who was working as a pastry chef in the restaurant at a senior living community, had recently been promoted to a manager position. Her mother said Jessica was hoping to go to college to pursue a journalism degree.

The Runions said their daughter is a hardworking, loving and family-oriented woman who has always been close with her family, especially her two younger sisters, Megan, 14, and a 5-year-old the family didn’t want to be named, and wouldn’t just disappear. Her mother said the daughters would text and send pictures on their family group chat every day.

“Jessica’s not a runaway girl,” John Michael Runions said. “Jessica would reach out to her family. She loved her job, she loved her friends, she loved her family ... and there’s nothing from her.”

Her mother and boyfriend reported Jessica missing the night of Sept. 9. Hours later, Jessica’s 2012 black Chevy Equinox was found burned in a desolate, wooded area around 2 a.m. Sept. 10, police said. But she was nowhere to be found.

After police found Jessica’s car, they arrested Yust who was found in a small town two hours outside of Kansas City. Yust is accused of setting Jessica’s car on fire and has been charged with “knowingly burning” a vehicle. He has not been charged in her disappearance.

Yust pleaded not guilty to the charge. He is behind bars on a $50,000 cash bond. He is scheduled to go to trial on the burning charge in the fall of 2017. His attorney did not return ABC News’ repeated requests for comment.

Kansas City police have continued to investigate the Runions case and teamed up with Missouri Search and Rescue to conduct field searches. They have also asked for landowners and hunters to look at their trail and game cameras near the location where Jessica’s car was found.

John Michael Runions said he goes out to look for his daughter every day.

“It’s hard when we have limited information,” he said. “We have started over and gone back to square one and then [we have gone] back out again and then started back at square one.”

KCPD Sgt. Kari Thompson stressed the importance of the public’s help and coming forward with any information.

“Our community is family and it’s important to find her,” Thompson said. “We need those individuals who know a little bit more to have the courage to step up and let us know where Jessica is.”

Jessica’s friends and family have also taken to social media using Facebook as a tool to share photos of Jessica, plan fundraisers and coordinate search parties every Sunday. The community response has been overwhelming, the Runions said, adding they need more help, especially with the winter weather settling in.

The Runions said they will not give up searching for their daughter and answers.

“This is the worst thing that could ever happen. Somebody knows something” Jamie S. Runions said, “I will do anything in my power to find her.”