Teen who vanished in 2007 will finally be laid to rest after remains identified

Kara Kopetsky disappeared in 2007.

August 17, 2017, 12:57 PM

— -- The family of Kara Kopetsky, a 17-year-old who vanished 10 years ago, is finally able to lay her to rest now that her remains have been found and identified.

The Belton, Missouri, police and the Kopetsky family told ABC News on Wednesday that remains found in a rural area south of Kansas City, Missouri, in April have been identified as Kopetsky.

"It's been a long 10 years. A long four months," Kopetsky’s mother, Rhonda Beckford, told ABC News today. "The remains were found and we finally can bring her home and bury her and put her to rest.

"We're so thankful that Kara's not missing anymore, that she's been found," Beckford added. "Of course it's not the way that you want her story to end. Her life was stolen from her when she was 17."

PHOTO: Rhonda Beckford looks around in her daughter, 17-year-old Kara Kopetsky's room during an interview in Belton, Mo., June 8, 2007.
Rhonda Beckford looks around in her daughter, 17-year-old Kara Kopetsky's room during an interview in Belton, Mo., June 8, 2007.
Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

Kopetsky’s remains were one of two sets found in April in the same area. The other set of remains were earlier identified as Jessica Runions, 21, another local young woman who disappeared in 2016.

No arrests have been made in connection with either disappearance, but Kopetsky’s ex-boyfriend, Kylr Yust, has been connected to both women.

According to Belton police reports, Kopetsky had filed a protective order against Yust days before she went missing in Kansas City in May 2007. In her protective order obtained by ABC News, Kopetsky wrote Yust had kidnapped, restrained and choked her. She wrote she was “unsure of what [Yust] will do next because the abuse has gotten worse over time.”

"Kara was just, she was a wonderful girl," Beckford said. "She felt like everybody deserved a friend. She was loyal to her friends and she loved her friends and her family. ... She will be truly missed for the rest of our lives."

Yust was and remains a person of interest in Kopetsky's case, the Belton police said.

Nine years after Kopetsky vanished, Runions was reported missing by her mother and boyfriend on the night of Sept. 9, 2016. Early in the morning on Sept. 10, Runions' car was found burned in a desolate, wooded area, police said. But Runions was nowhere to be found.

Runions' family says friends told them Runions was last seen giving Yust -- her boyfriend’s longtime friend -- a ride home from a party.

After police found the vehicle, Yust was arrested, accused of setting Runions' car on fire. He has been charged with “knowingly burning” a vehicle and has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Runions' mother told ABC News that she did not know Yust and researched his name online. Through her search, she discovered Yust was connected to Kopetsky's case. She said she then reached out to Kopetsky’s mother.

“People don't really know what it's like to have missing children," Runions' mother, Jamie Runions, said, but Kopetsky's family helped her. "It's nice to talk to people that understand.”

“We’re stronger as a team,” Jamie Runions said. “We’ve become a family.”

Meanwhile, Yust is awaiting trial for “knowingly burning” Jessica Runions’ vehicle.

His attorney, Molly Hastings, told ABC News today there is "no change of circumstance related to his pending case," stressing that "he has one pending case at this time" and the rest is just "speculation."

In a statement to ABC News in April on the discovery of Jessica Runions' remains, Hastings said, "Despite developments made over the course of the past week, Mr. Yust remains charged with only one count of knowingly burning a vehicle. He has pled not guilty to that offense, and the defense will continue to prepare for trial in that case."

She continued, “There are too many unknown factors to comment further, but I can assert that Kylr has not been charged with any further crimes.”

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