Cass County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Butler laid out a simple argument as he gave the opening statements in the Kylr Yust double murder trial Monday afternoon.
Facing the jury and alternates of 11 women and three men bused in from St. Charles County, Butler used words he alleges Yust used when bragging about one of the murders.
“I strangled the f* out of her and hid her in the f*ing forest,”
The words were purported to have been uttered to another female he was trying to impress, where Yust reportedly confessed to the 2007 murder of Kara Kopetsky. He is also accused of murdering Jessica Runions nine years later.
Butler also recited another confession Yust allegedly made about Kopetsky, “If I can’t have her, nobody can.”
Butler concluded his opening by again repeating an alleged confession. “My neck tattoo represents my hands around Kara’s neck,” Yust purportedly said.
After the brief opening statement, defense attorney Sharon Turlington painted a much different picture.
“Kylr Yust is innocent. It is a long and complicated story…. Without all of the facts you can come up with the wrong conclusion,” she said.
She stated the taped confession was a death metal band member and tattoo artist looking to impress a girl he was hoping to sleep with. She also alleged police did not follow up with alternative suspects, primarily Yust’s half-brother Jessep Carter, who committed suicide in the Jackson County Jail in 2018.
She also noted supposed irregularities in the timeline of the murders alleging Yust was not in the area when the two murders occurred and that critical evidence, such as some cellphone records, were negligently handled. Turlington’s opening remarks were interrupted three different times by Butler and attorneys held conferences at the bench with the judge.
Yust, 33, Belton, looked much different that at previous hearings. Instead of shackles and an orange jump suit with his tattoos on display, Yust was dressed in a suit and tie with trimmed hair and only part of his neck tattoo and hand tattoo showing.
The opening statements took about 60 minutes and Judge William Collins recessed for the day about 3:15 p.m. so the jurors who had just arrived, could be taken to a hotel where they are being sequestered to unpack and rest after traveling from the east side of the state Monday morning.
On Monday morning, Collins listened as the prosecution and defense continued to haggle over the admissibility of several details. The defense said it wanted to include a “coded” note found in the jail cell where Carter’s body was found. They contend one interpretation of the note read, “I killed 11 women.”
The defense is also wanting to call witnesses who reportedly heard other stories about the murders, but the prosecution argued much of that testimony was hearsay and not first-hand knowledge. There was also discussion about a gold station wagon seen in the area where the bodies were found. Collins ruled Turlington could not bring up the car during her opening statement, but could address the issue during the course of the trial.
Collins agreed to hold individual hearings on the motions when the time comes for the evidence to be presented.
The defense also objected to having family members of the victims seated just two rows behind jurors, who are seated in the audience area for social distancing. Collins said bailiffs would be seated in the row between jurors and audience and no utterances would be allowed.