By Allen Edmonds
HARRISONVILLE – Presiding Circuit Judge William Collins on Monday set two additional pretrial hearings for Kylr Yust, in an attempt to clear questions that stand in the way of a firm trial date for the 31-year-old, accused in the deaths of 17-year-old Kara Kopetsky of Belton in 2007 and 21-year-old Jessica Runions of Raymore in 2016.
The suspect’s lead attorney, Sharon Turlington of the state’s capital public defense unit in St. Louis, said following the hearing that she understood the effect that delays must have on the victims’ families.
“I understand this is horrible for them,” Turlington said. “But in a case like this, where there is strong evidence of actual innocence, it doesn’t do us any good to not follow every step exactly.”
She did not specify the evidence that points to Yust’s innocence, but did say during the hearing that the defense team was still missing discovery evidence, a problem that has been a front-burner issue for months. In September, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Julie Tolle told the court she personally had gone to the Belton Police Department to collect 43 disks of case information. Tolle told the judge on the record that the evidence “had not been provided to the state by the Belton Police Department.”
Belton Police Chief Jim Person denied any responsibility for the problems.
On Monday, Turlington told Collins she was still missing one page of a multi-page FBI report, and one additional document – neither connected with BPD.
Both she and prosecutors agreed that issue should be resolved by the next hearing, which was set for 1:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2.
Meanwhile, Turlington said there are other issues that could potentially delay the start of trial beyond just a few months. In the process of going through the records of evidence that exists, she said it appears that some forensic and archaeological evidence had not been DNA tested.
She said that if that is the case, she will insist on DNA testing on all relevant physical evidence collected – a process that could take months.
In addition, she said, she will be seeking agreement between the doctor that performed the mental examination on Yust and jail officials on prescription medication.
“If the medication that is prescribed to Mr. Yust isn’t on the jail’s approved list, I’ll be seeking a court order to order it to be given,” she said.
“It’s just a matter of getting him stabilized, which we have every indication can be done.”
Collins set a hearing for 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, to decide that issue.
Yust has been held in the Cass County Jail on $1 million bond for more than two years.
Trial had been set to begin early this month, but was delayed indefinitely when issues regarding discovery and the defendant’s mental condition arose.