Man Arrested in Connection with Disappearance of Jessica Runions, Kansas City Woman He Allegedly Left Party With

Jessica Runions was allegedly last seen leaving a party Thursday with Yust, who was a suspect in his ex-girlfriends disappearance

Photo: Kansas City PD

Authorities have arrested a Kansas City, Missouri, man in connection with last week’s disappearance of a woman allegedly last seen leaving a party with him, PEOPLE confirms.

Jessica Runions, 21, was reported missing Friday after she didn’t come home from a party Thursday night, according to Kansas City police. Officials discovered her burned, empty SUV Saturday morning on the side of the road.

On Sunday, Kylr Yust, 28, was arrested on charges of allegedly knowingly burning Runions’s vehicle, according to a Kansas City police news release.

Runions allegedly left Thursday night’s party with Yust, a friend of her boyfriend, KCTV5 reports.

Yust was once a suspect in the still-unsolved 2007 disappearance of his ex-girlfriend Kara Kopetsky, according to the station and other media outlets, but he was never charged. Yust has not been charged with Runions’s disappearance.

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‘We Want Her Back’

Runion’s grandmother, Linda Runions, tells PEOPLE, “She was the sweetest girl,” adding, “She was just a typical girl. Very independent, very loving and very caring.”

Runions worked at a local retirement home as a baker, her grandmother says. She started working there as a server three years ago but worked her way up to baking for the residents.

“She was living on her own, working [hard] and had her own car,” Reunions’s aunt, Michele Runions, says. “She was very responsible.”

Runions was saving to go to culinary school, her family tells PEOPLE. “She loved to bake birthday cakes,” Michele Runions says.

Runions’ family tells PEOPLE they are staying positive and are relieved to hear authorities have made an arrest in a case connected to her disappearance.

“We’re trying our best to keeping our focus on finding Jessica,” Michele Runions says. “We just want her back. We can’t believe she’s missing.”

Linda Runions says she has one message for the 28-year-old: “Tell us where she is, please. Let us know that she’s okay.”

A Violent Past

Rhonda Beckford, Kara Kopetsky’s mother, tells PEOPLE she was both shocked and thankful to hear of Yust’s arrest.

“I’m hoping that while in custody, they can grill him and get additional information not only on Jessica but possibly on Kara,” Beckford says. “She’s been missing for almost ten years. She should have justice.”

Beckford tells PEOPLE that before her daughter disappeared in May, she told her mother Yust had been violent with her.

“The relationship was very violent,” Beckford says. “He could be very charismatic when he wanted to be but he would flip out and become very violent.”

“We tried to tell her he wasn’t good for her but that just drew them closer together,” Beckford continues. “It was like battered woman syndrome. He made her feel like she didn’t deserve any better.”

In September 2011, Yust pleaded guilty to domestic violence after choking and striking his then-pregnant 18-year-old girlfriend, according to a police report obtained by PEOPLE. The victim claimed Yust told her, “I’ve killed people before, even ex-girlfriends out of sheer jealousy. I will kill you.”

The victim also alleged Yust told her he had killed her three kittens and would kill her family if she went to police. A Kansas City judge filed an order of protection, which was later dismissed, court records state.

In 2013, Yust was sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted of drug trafficking, Fox4 reports. He was released after serving three years, Beckford tells PEOPLE.

Yust is currently being held in Benton County jail, where he is awaiting extradition to Kansas City, according to a Kansas City police spokesperson.

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