ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – Prospective jurors sat in a church gymnasium in St. Charles Tuesday morning for an upcoming trial about a double murder on the other side of the state.
The case is years in the making and the publicity so intense, a Cass County judge has sent attorneys here to find an impartial jury. The judge denied a change of venue motion filed by defense attorneys but will be bringing in jurors from St. Charles County. Attorneys say the judge hopes this will bring fairness to the case.
Kylr Yust is accused of killing Kara Kopetsky in 2007 and Jessica Runions in 2016. Both bodies were found together in Cass County by mushroom hunters in 2017. Yust was charged once investigators identified the remains through DNA and dental records.
Yoost was held during that time for allegedly burning Runions’ car but Jackson County dropped that charge once Cass County charged Yust with double murder.
Attorneys had to travel 270 miles for jury selection inside a gymnasium at St. Peter Catholic Church. Attorney Phil Lavota, who has been following the case, analyzed the legal hurdles both sides could face.
“Juror selection was important thing for the defense in this case, because it was highly publicized for more than a decade around the KC area,” Lavota said. “The defense thought the jurors had their minds made up. So, a change of venue takes the entire case to Cass County.”
Over the last couple of days, more than 120 people spent the day going through questions while Yust sat through the proceedings and watched.
“The presiding judge thought it was best to go to St. Charles and get some jurors that have not heard anything about the case and select them in St. Charles, move them back to Cass County, and that same judge that’s presiding over everything will still be over the case and preside,” Lavota said.
Each juror asked if they could be impartial after looking at difficult evidence and their feelings about law enforcement and if they believed Yust committed the murders.
“The defense is looking to make sure they don’t connect the dots between the two incidents and the young women that were murdered, and the bodies found later, and no DNA, no fingerprints,” Lavota said. “Meanwhile, the prosecution’s side, they will look at jurors who will use common sense that this guy was implicated and this guy did not murder them.”
So far none of the jurors were openly dismissed or disqualified. The judge asked the first group of jurors to return Wednesday morning to continue the selection process.