Defense expert, an ex-detective, testifies on ‘failures’ in Kylr Yust investigation

Luke Nozicka
·3 min read

A former Washington, D.C. detective testified Tuesday for Kylr Yust’s defense team that he found issues with how local police investigated the two homicides in question.

James Trainum, who has testified across the country about best police practices, said those investigative failures included not reigning in a Kansas City police officer who allegedly interviewed an “untold number of witnesses” without documenting his interactions with them. Investigators with the Belton Police Department also did not put all of their work on paper, he testified.

“It just raises questions that shouldn’t be raised,” Trainum told the jury.

The testimony came on the eighth day of Yust’s trial in Cass County as his defense team tried to sow doubt about the evidence against him. Yust faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kara Kopetsky, 17, and Jessica Runions, 21.

Trainum said a proper investigation would include interviewing witnesses without asking them leading questions and not telling them information provided by other people. The Kansas City officer broke those rules “multiple times,” Trainum said.

On cross examination by prosecutors, Trainum agreed that a boyfriend with a history of domestic violence, such as Yust, would be a primary suspect in such an investigation. In questioning Trainum, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Julie Tolle said Yust had scratches on his face when he was arrested once and had allegedly told one of the victims he was going to slit her throat.

Tolle read from a protection order requested by one of the victims before she disappeared. She said it stated: “I’m not sure what he (Yust) will do next.”

After Trainum’s testimony, Yust’s attorneys called a forensic anthropologist, Rick Snow, to the stand. He testified that crime scene investigators made some mistakes while collecting the victims’ remains. Had they followed proper procedures, he said, they may have located the victims’ hyoid bones, which are located in the neck and could have been useful in determining if they were strangled.

Jurors on Tuesday also briefly heard from a woman who befriended and casually dated Yust after she saw an episode of “Disappeared” about Kopetsky. She testified she wanted to see if she could get any information from Yust, but she did not.

Kopetsky was reported missing in 2007; Runions was last seen alive in 2016. Their disappearances remained mysteries in the Kansas City area until a mushroom hunter found their remains April 3, 2017, in a wooded area south of Belton.

Yust was charged in their deaths six months later.

Between 2010 and 2012, police spoke to at least four people who said Yust confessed to killing Kopetsky, according to charging documents. Earlier in the trial, one former friend testified Yust “admitted to me that he had killed Kara.”

Since Yust was charged, his defense team have raised questions about the the integrity of the investigation and said police failed to fully investigate an alternative suspect. No physical evidence connected him to the murders, his lawyers said.

The trial began April 5 and is expected to last three weeks.