Jessica Runions, 21, disappeared in September 2016

By Steve Helling
April 06, 2017 06:17 PM
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Seven months after she went missing, the remains of 21-year-old Jessica Runions were positively identified on Wednesday, PEOPLE confirms.

According to Kansas City authorities, a civilian stumbled upon the remains in a rural area of Cass County. With the grisly discovery, Runions’ case has become a homicide investigation, authorities said in a statement.

Jessica Runions was a baker at a retirement home. She was last seen on Sept. 8, 2016 when she left a party in Kansas City with Kylr Yust, a friend of her boyfriend’s. Days later, her empty vehicle was found abandoned and burned. Yust was arrested and charged with intentionally burning her vehicle. He has pleaded not guilty.

It was not immediately clear whether Yust, 28, will face additional charges now that the remains have been found.

Yust was once a suspect in the disappearance of his former girlfriend, Kara Kopetsky, the Kansas City police have said. She was last seen at Belton High School in May 2007. She was 17.

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Authorities tell PEOPLE that a second set of remains has been found in the same location as Runions’, but it could take weeks or even months to identify them — and that it’s premature to speculate whether they belong to Kopetsky.

Captain Kevin Tieman with the Cass County Sherriff’s Office tells PEOPLE that investigators are still searching for additional remains at the scene.

Yust’s attorney, Molly Hastings, has not returned PEOPLE’s request for comment.

This is not the first time that Yust has been in legal trouble.

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.

Yust is currently in custody.