Kara Kopetsky went missing on May 4, 2007 from outside her high school in Belton, MO. She has not been seen since, nor have her family or friends heard from her. I heard about her disappearance in 2011, almost four years after she vanished. Even thought Kara was only 17 years old, and despite what her family told them, police believed that Kara was a runaway and had disappeared voluntarily. It was not until Kara had been missing for several days that they took her family's concerns seriously, when the clues and the trail had cooled off considerably. Even today, the Belton police insist there is no evidence of foul play, although they do admit her disappearance is suspicious.
Kara Elise Kopetsky was born February 17, 1990 in Frankfurt, Germany. She was a junior at Belton High School in Belton, MO. Her parents are divorced and her father lives in a nearby town. Kara lived with her mother, Rhonda Beckford, her stepfather, Jim Beckford, and her younger brother. Her family describes her as a typical 17 year old girl who had friends and an active social life, enjoyed shopping, and occasionally played truant from school but was looking forward to her senior year in high school.
On Friday morning, May 4, 2007, Kara left home and walked to school rather than having her mother drive her. She arrived at school by 7:30 a.m., when classes began. Around 8 a.m., she called her mother and told her that she had left her history textbook at home and asked her mother to bring it to school. She also asked her mother to wash her work uniform since she was scheduled to work that afternoon. Rhonda dropped the book off at the high school office, and Kara picked the book up sometime that morning. After getting into an argument with one of her teachers, she apparently decided to leave the school for a while. Her cell phone records show that the last call she made was at 10:30 that morning, to her ex-boyfriend. Kara was last seen on a surveillance video inside the school, heading for the exit around 10:30 a.m. She does not appear to be in any kind of distress or in a hurry. It is not known if she was leaving the school or meeting someone or perhaps just stepping outside for a cigarette, since she had only her phone with her and had left her backpack in her locker. Her actions indicate that she planned to remain at school and then later, stop at home, change her clothes, and go to her job. The last person she spoke to at school said Kara indicated that she was going to leave campus for a while and asked if the friend want to come with her. She is also seen on the same video footage chatting with others near a drinking fountain. She was not seen again on the school’s surveillance cameras, and if any of the other students saw Kara outside, they have not come forward. The school does not have outside cameras.
Kara did not come home from school that day, nor did she show up for work for her 4 p.m. shift. After trying to call her cell phone repeatedly, by 5:30 p.m., her mother and stepfather reported her missing to the police. They were stunned to learn that a school friend of Kara’s had just reported her missing as well. Since Kara was in school that morning, as was shown on the surveillance tapes, why would the friend think Kara was missing?
On April 28, 2007, only a week before her disappearance, at around 10:30 p.m., Kara had been forcibly abducted by her boyfriend, Kylr Yust, while waiting for a friend to pick her up outside the Popeye’s Chicken restaurant where she had a part-time job (Kara did not yet have a driver’s license). A friend called her cell phone while she was in Yust’s truck and she told her what had happened. When Yust pulled into a parking lot off the interstate, she jumped from the truck to escape from him. Kara obtained a restraining order against him on April 30, four days before she disappeared, describing how he kidnapped and restrained her and threatened to slit her throat. She went missing on the Friday before Yust’s court date. Kara had a history of running away or disappearing for a few days, and Belton police believed that she had left of her own accord. They dropped the charges against the boyfriend, believing that once the charges were dropped, Kara would return home.
Yust was initially a suspect but had an alibi for the time of Kara’s disappearance and passed a polygraph test (although later reports revealed he only passed some parts of the test). He stated that he was cooperating fully with the police. Kara’s stepfather was also questioned by police and cleared of any possible involvement (this is standard procedure – family are always considered the first suspects).
There was a possible sighting of Kara 13 days after her disappearance, in Louisburg, KS. The young woman in question was in the company of an unidentified man. Another teenaged girl, Kelsey Ann Smith, disappeared from Overland Park, KS, approximately one month after Kara disappeared. Kelsey was similar in appearance to Kara and at first police believed there was a link between the two cases, but Kelsey’s body was found a few days after she disappeared. She had been murdered and a suspect was charged with her death. Authorities decided that there was no connection between the cases after all.
Area residents said that there were several searches in the woods following Kara’s disappearance but the searches always covered the same areas. They question why Kelsey Smith’s case received so much more publicity than Kara’s case. There are persistent rumors that Kara went to the house of a local drug dealer and possibly came to harm there.
Kara’s mother, Rhonda Beckford, believes that Kara’s ex-boyfriend Kylr Yust has answers to what happened to Kara. In 2011, Yust killed his girlfriend’s three cats and later pleaded guilty to charges of choking the same pregnant 18 year old girlfriend until she passed out; he was sentenced to two years probation and no contact with the victim. Yust insists that he never abused Kara or tried to hurt her. There are at least two other unnamed suspects in the case, one who confessed to killing Kara while intoxicated, another who was seen driving in his truck heading toward Belton High School around the time that Kara was last seen on the school video.
In 2011, Kara’s family learned that the police file about Kara’s case contained serious discrepancies. One report notes that Kara actually disappeared on May 2, not May 4, and that in a conversation with her mother, Rhonda Beckford indicated that they believed Kara was a runaway and had gone off willingly with her boyfriend. Rhonda and her husband Jim both said that phone conversation never happened and when they did contact police, the officer who came to their house didn’t write anything down. Rhonda states that Kara was home on the morning of May 4 and the family all saw her. Belton police officials stand by the information in the file. The Beckfords also learned that a box of Kara’s possessions were turned into Belton police two years after her disappearance.
In the Belton area, a group of unidentified people including former police officers, researchers, and dog trainers with cadaver dogs have banded together to try to find Kara themselves. Following up on local gossip, rumors, and word-of-mouth clues, they followed the clues to an abandoned house in the Belton area, where Kara is reputed to have died or been buried. In February 2012, investigative reporter Russ Ptacek of KSHB accompanied the group of amateur sleuths to two locations that they feel have been missed or ignored by police, a house and an abandoned building. Kara’s father said there have been continuing rumors and innuendos about Kara’s disappearance that are connected to the house that the team visited. The group found graffiti that read “Kara is gone” and “I did it.” In the other building, a cadaver dog was filmed searching in the basement and repeatedly sitting down, the signal that the dog has picked up the scent of remains. Belton police have indicated that they do not want help from the amateur investigators or Kara’s family, threatening legal action if they don’t stop “interfering with the investigation.” Belton police did go to the house that Ptacek visited, stayed about 40 minutes, and never returned. Kara’s family does not believe that a thorough search could have been conducted in just 40 minutes.
The amateur group investigating Kara’s disappearance have handed over all evidence that they discovered to the FBI and the Kansas City police. They told Ptacek that instead of investigating Kara’s disappearance, the Belton police are more interested in investigating them.
At the time of her disappearance, Kara was 17 years old; she is now 22 years old. She is 5’5” tall, weighs 125 lbs., Caucasian, has brown hair with reddish blond streaks, and hazel eyes. She was wearing a gray t-shirt with a white skull print, dark jeans, a studded belt, a gray sweater with ¾ length sleeves, black and white checkered sneakers, and a black hobo bag. She has a scar on her forehead and her ears are double-pierced. Her navel is also pierced. She pronounces her name CAR-uh. Since her disappearance, she has not accessed her bank account or her MySpace page, and her cell phone had either been shut off or the battery had run down after she made that last call. All her personal possessions including clothes, cigarettes (Marlboro Lights), make-up, phone charger, and iPod are at home in her room; her backpack and debit card were found in her school locker.
While police say there is no evidence of foul play, they no longer believe Kara simply ran away and consider her disappearance to be suspicious. An $80,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to Kara. Her story has been featured on Disappeared on Investigation Discovery and Nancy Grace’s America’s Missing on HLN/CNN Headline News. In August 2012, a photo of a woman arrested in Indianapolis who bore a strong resemblance to Kara was believed by some to be the missing girl, but it was later determined that the woman was not Kara.
Every year, Kara’s family marks the anniversary of her disappearance with a two-mile walk to show that they are still seeking answers and working to keep Kara’s story in the public eye. They just want to know what happened to her and bring their child home. They will never give up looking for her.
If you have any information about Kara Kopetsky, contact the Belton Police Department, 816/331-1500.