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Family searching for a missing loved one finds two other dead bodies instead

In January, family of Jessica Runions found a man's body two weekends in a row

Family members of Jessica Runions, missing since September, set out in January on their routine search for her, but they ended up finding a man's body near 53rd Street. and South Brighton Avenue. Now, the body has been identified.
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Family members of Jessica Runions, missing since September, set out in January on their routine search for her, but they ended up finding a man's body near 53rd Street. and South Brighton Avenue. Now, the body has been identified.

For the second weekend in a row, a search group looking for a missing Raymore woman instead found a man’s body and alerted police Saturday.

Family members of Jessica Runions — missing since early September — were searching the area near South Brighton Avenue and 53rd Street on Saturday morning when they made the discovery. Kansas City Police said it was being investigated as a suspicious death and few other details were available.

About a dozen family members began searching fields and climbing through brush and walking along South Brighton and the nearby area at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. They found the man’s body, about 6 to 8 feet from the road and down a small embankment, at 11:15 a.m.

A reporter and videographer for The Star were with the search group Saturday morning.

“Two bodies two weeks in a row?” said John Runions, Jessica’s father. “It’s unbelievable. ... We’re not going to stop looking until we find her. And if we find other people along the way, that’s good. Families deserve closure.”

Last Saturday, Runions and a relative found a man’s decomposing body in a creek bed near East 67th Terrace and Lewis Avenue. The man was later identified as 21-year-old Brandon Herring, of Raytown. He had been reported missing in November and police continue to investigate the homicide.

“It is awful a family searching for their loved one finds two victims during their search, in one week’s time,” said Capt. Stacey Graves of the Kansas City Police Department. “Although this is a strange turn of events for those searching, I am very thankful the victims have been found for their families’ sake.”

Jessica Runions, of Raymore, was last seen Sept. 8 leaving a gathering of friends in south Kansas City. The burned vehicle belonging to the 21-year-old was found two days later in a nearby wooded area. Kylr Yust, a man who had been questioned about the disappearance of another young woman in 2007, has been charged with burning the vehicle.

Yust, 27, had been the off-and-on boyfriend of Kara Kopetsky, then 17, before she disappeared nine years ago.

Family and friends search for Jessica Runions nearly every week. The only times they’ve missed is during recent bitter cold temperatures.

When the search group arrived Saturday morning, John Runions and a couple of family members went to search another nearby area. John Runions’ fiancé, Natalie Charles, stayed along South Brighton with the others.

The goal is always to search secluded, out-of-the-way areas and be as thorough as you can be. Charles used a metal walking stick to stir up leaves and piles of debris. She ducked through brush and under limbs.

“You think about places to search all of the time,” Charles said as she climbed out of a wooded area along South Brighton. “You wake up in the middle of the night.”

At one point Saturday morning, Charles’ mother, Marleyne Marsh — who was searching farther down South Brighton — came to get Charles. She’d seen something suspicious she wanted her daughter to check out.

Within a few minutes, Charles was on the phone with John Runions, trying to figure out their exact location so they could call police with news of the body they had found.

“The irony of it two weeks in a row, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Runions said. “It kind of makes you question society when they throw people away like they do their trash.”

The group knew that they’d be back out searching again somewhere next week. The past two weekends, they said, have taught them that what they are doing is needed.

“Someone’s loved one was found,” Janice Runions, Jessica’s great aunt, said as family gathered after police arrived. “I just wish someone or we would find ours.”

Laura Bauer: 816-234-4944, @kclaurab

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