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It’s not often that news of the death of a very well-known person can be kept quiet for more than a week, but it happened this week and last.

I learned about the death of former Walmart CEO and former Kansas City Royals owner David Glass from a story posted this afternoon on The Star’s website.

Just as surprising to me about his death — there had been no reports of ill health — was the fact that he died on Jan. 9 — eight days ago.

The Star’s report said he had died of “complications associated with pneumonia” but did not say where he died.

I presume he died in or near Bentonville, AR, his home. He was 84.

I have no idea what the Glass family had in mind when they decided to withhold news of his death, but it is, indeed, strange.

The fact that they were able to keep it quiet has a lot to do with where he lived. Northwest Arkansas, which revolves around the towns of Fayetteville, Bentonville, Rogers and Springdale, is pretty insular. Although Bentonville is home to Walmart, which Glass formerly headed, and Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas is a bit isolated.

At the same time, several people in Kansas City almost surely would have known about his death about the time it occurred. Glass had a close relationship with Royals General Manager Dayton Moore, and Glass’s son Dan has been — and still is, I presume — president of the Royals. Others who I would think would have known were John Sherman, leader of a local group that bought the Royals from Glass last year, and George Brett.

It is a mystery to me how Glass’s death got by the media. The two main organizations I would have expected to have the news last week were The Star and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. But neither did.

The Star has a full-time Royals “beat” writer, Lynn Worthy. Where was he? In addition, columnists Sam Mellinger and Vahe Gregorian are well connected to Royals’ brass, and I would think someone would have tipped one of them. In fairness, they and most of The Star’s sports staff have been singularly focused on the Chiefs and their attempted run at their first Super Bowl in 50 years. Worthy, on the other hand, has no excuse: He has been covering Royals’ developments during the off season and has not been involved in Chiefs’ coverage.

In the bigger picture, the media’s inability to sniff out Glass’s death earlier could well be due to the massive contraction in the newspaper industry, particularly at the metro level. Metro papers almost everywhere are having big troubles. The Star’s owner, the McClatchy Co., is on the verge of reorganization or bankruptcy, and its focus is on its survival and what the future holds for the company itself as much as what’s going on in the world.

**

Death is always sudden, but this is another instance of how time slips away…I have this mental image of Glass as an energetic, burly, craggy faced guy. But a photo I came across of him in the Royals’ dugout around the time former manager Ned Yost announced his retirement shows him to be very thin, almost emaciated.

Glass with Ned Yost and TV sports reporter Karen Kornacki.

Glass announced his intention to sell the Royals to the Sherman group for about $1 billion last August. (Glass told The Star then he had no known or immediate health problems.) In September, Yost announced he would retire at the end of the season. That’s when this photo was taken.

Glass’ connection with the Royals officially ended Nov. 21, when Major League Baseball owners approved the sale of the team to the Sherman group.

Relatively speaking, it seems like an eternity between Jan. 9, when Glass died, and today, when the Glass family allowed news of his death to be announced.

This looks like the Glass family’s biggest and final victory — sitting on news of the patriarch’s death for eight long days. Why the delay? We’ll probably never know.

The Star has two special sections on the Chiefs today, and one of them, contrasting the members of the 1969-70 championship team with the 2019-2020 team, was particularly interesting.

Some of the Super Bowl IV players who were highlighted included defensive tackle Buck Buchanan, tight end Fred Arbanas, safety Johnny Robinson, wide receiver Otis Taylor, linebacker Bobby Bell, kicker Jan Stenerud, and, of course, quarterback Len Dawson.

Over time, those players and many of the others from that team became legendary, awesome figures. Bigger than life-size, they were towering icons, looming high above us average, toiling mortals.

I had arrived in Kansas City to work for The Star in September 1969, and, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t caught up in the magic of that season. I was mostly caught up in my new job and getting settled in my new city. I don’t recall even watching the Chiefs games on TV that season, although I’m sure I must have watched the Super Bowl, assuming I wasn’t pulling a Sunday shift at 18th and Grand that day.

What I do remember is that when the championship parade took place a day or two after the Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the parade went right by the east windows of The Star building, along Grand Avenue. Everyone in the newsroom went over to the tall east-side windows and watched parts of the parade go by.

For me, the members of that team didn’t become legendary until I started going to games in the early 1970s and the Super Bowl heroes began retiring one at a time. It was hard to see them step out of the limelight. I met a few of them over the years, and I have clear memories of others.

Today, as the Chiefs try to take another step toward what would be their second Super Bowl, here are a few of my faint connections to and memories of some of those phenomenal figures…

Mo Moorman

Mo Moorman and I went to the same high school, St. Xavier in Louisville, KY. He was the star of our team, which won the state championship in 1962. I never met Mo, a hulking guard, but I remember an incident that occurred one day after school. Moorman and another kid got into it and were mouthing at each other. The other kid, much smaller than Mo, pried a hubcap off a car and got set to go after Mo. About that time, the football coach, Johnny Meihaus, came upon the dust-up and restored the peace. Mo went on to attend Texas A&M, and was the Chiefs’ first-round draft choice in 1968. In the Super Bowl, he threw the key block on the famous “65 Toss Power Trap” that Coach Hank Stram called on the sidelines and then chortled about as he was mic’d for sound on national TV. (In the video, Moorman, No. 76, is the right guard who pulls out to the left and opens a big hole for running back Mike Garrett.) After retiring, Moorman returned to Louisville and became a successful beer distributor. Now retired, he still lives in the Louisville area.

Fred Arbanas

I got to know Fred in the early ’70s, after he was elected to the Jackson County Legislature, which I covered for The Star from 1971 to 1978. He was always friendly and cooperative — a good guy to cover as a reporter. The most amazing thing about Arbanas as a football player is that he played the bulk of his career, and did well, with just one eye. In today’s special section, reporter Blair Kerkhoff says Arbanas “lost sight in one eye in an accident.” Well, it was hardly an accident. Arbanas told me the story…He was outside a bar on the southeast corner of Armour and Troost — the bar was called either King Arthur’s Round Table or Knights Round Table — when a guy approached him and said, “Are you Fred Arbanas?” Arbanas said, “Yes,” and extended his hand to shake the man’s hand. Instead of returning the gesture in kind, the man took a big swing at Arbanas and struck him in the eye. It was a sucker punch that cost Arbanas the sight of one eye. Arbanas lives in eastern Jackson County

Buck Buchanan

I met Buck sometime in the 1990s, after the Chiefs had qualified for the playoffs for the first time since the glory years. I was doing a story on Chiefs’ owner Lamar Hunt, who allowed me to accompany him as he greeted tailgaters in the parking lot before a playoff game and then to join him in his suite at Arrowhead. Buchanan and his wife Georgia were among those in the suite, and I got to meet them. I remember Buck being humble and friendly and smiling. I knew he was associated with the Black Chamber of Commerce at the time, and I asked him if he was president of the organization. “Oh, no,” he replied, “I’m just the chairman.” (Later, Buck was the subject of one of the most ridiculous reporting errors that ever appeared in The Star. Features columnist Hearne Christopher reported that Buck was the designer of a Japanese garden outside a home at 66th and Ward Parkway. In fact, the designer was a landscaper named Buck Buchan.) Buck Buchanan died of lung cancer in 1992 at age 51.

Ed Budde

Ed, an offensive guard, was the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 1963. In the 1970 Super Bowl, he was able to contain the Vikings’ right defensive tackle, Hall-of-Famer Alan Page. I was at the stadium the day Ed retired in 1976. Summoned to the center of the field, he blew a kiss to the cheering fans on one side of the stadium, then turned around and blew a kiss to the fans on the other side. Several years later, I saw him at a Kentucky Derby and introduced myself. He was with Paul Hornung, a Louisville native who had starred at Notre Dame and then with the Green Bay Packers. I told Ed how much I had enjoyed his kiss-blowing goodbye. He broke into a big smile and said, “Did you like that?” Ed’s son, Brad Budde, played for the Chiefs from 1980 to 1987. Ed and Brad have been the first and only father and son in NFL history to be drafted in the first round by the same team and played the same position. Ed Budde is still alive and, I trust, still living in the Kansas City area.

I hope some of the Chiefs players on the field today become as memorable and legendary as those four Chiefs greats.

One of the best stories I’ve seen in The Star lately is one written by a Star photographer about a former Star photographer.

Longtime photographer Tammy Ljungblad yesterday posted a story about Roy Inman, who worked for The Star from the late 1960s to the early or mid-1980s. Inman, who lives in Olathe, went on to do very well as a commercial photographer and, at age 78, is still going strong.

I was fortunate enough to work with Inman on one story, a profile I wrote in the early 1970s on the legendary baseball star Ted Williams, who was managing the Washington Senators at the time. The main thing I remember about that interview is that about 30 minutes into it, Williams, who was notoriously testy with the media, turned to me in the visitors’ dugout at Kauffman (then Royals’) Stadium and said: “Aren’t we about through? You’ve got enough to write a book!”

Ljungblad’s story is about Inman convincing Star editors to let him photograph Super Bowl IV on Jan. 11, 1970, when the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7.

At the time, Inman was a staff photographer for the Star Magazine, the paper’s former Sunday feature magazine. Inman lobbied with Star editors to let him travel from Tampa, where he was shooting a story on the Kansas City Royals’ rookie of the year, outfielder Lou Piniella, to New Orleans to cover the big game.

The Star had other photographers covering the game, but Inman convinced them he could provide a different perspective by focusing on the atmosphere in and around the sidelines. The editors’ decision to approve Inman’s detour turned out to be very wise.

After Inman got back to Kansas City on Monday, the 12th, he and Robert Pearman, then-managing editor of The Kansas City Times (the morning KC Star), reviewed his photos. Several ran in the Tuesday morning paper.

Below are three of those photos…

Note the uniforms and the wholesome, natural look of these Chiefs’ cheerleaders. Note also how the uniform colors blend with the golden color of the evening sky.

Chiefs’ center E.J. Holub wasn’t a bit self-conscious about his missing teeth as he celebrated the team’s victory. (This was the pre-mouth guard era.)

And here was Quarterback Len Dawson, poised to throw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Otis Taylor. This photo ran on the front page of the Tuesday morning paper.

Finally, here are photos of Inman and Tammy Ljungblad…

Thanks to these two great professionals for bringing us this special story and some wonderful, timeless photos.

I was sitting around reading The New York Times and watching the Patriots-Titans game tonight, when I suddenly got transported back into the 1960s, my favorite decade. (I’m sure many of you fellow Baby Boomers can relate.)

Jack Sheldon

What sent me tumbling into the past was an obit about a big band trumpeter named Jack Sheldon, who died Dec. 27 at age 88. The obit said in part…

Known for his warm rich trumpet sound, Mr. Sheldon was also a busy studio musician, accompanying singers like Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee and playing on the soundtrack of numerous movies. He was a favorite of soundtrack composers like Johnny Mandel — who featured him on “The Shadow of Your Smile,” from the 1965 movie “The Sandpiper” — and Henry Mancini.

The reference to “The Shadow of Your Smile” stopped me cold…That was it for the football game; I was off to the computer, Googling various YouTube versions of that song, which I hadn’t heard or thought about or in maybe decades.

But, God, did I — and do I — remember it. It’s one of the most beautiful and haunting songs ever. A commenter on one YouTube version likened its mesmirizing effect to watching a leaf descending gently, to and fro, from a tall cypress tree.

The movie, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, came out in 1965. At the time, I was a lost-in-the-world freshman in college back in Lousville. I’d had a rough time in my all-boys, Catholic high school, and the blues persisted in that first year of college. One of the main things that propelled me forward and gave me hope for future happiness was the great music of the ’60s.

In my freshman year at Bellarmine College, I remember one of the priest-teachers at Bellarmine College talking about the power of music in class one day. He looked at me — I was sitting in the front row, as I recall — and said, “Music soothes the soul, doesn’t it, Fitzpatrick?”

“Yes, Father, it does,” I said, nodding in unequivocal agreement.

“The Shadow of Your Smile” is certainly a song that soothes the soul, not only with its lilting melody but the great lyrics (written by Paul Webster), which include these lines…

The shadow of your smile
When you are gone
Will color all my dreams
And light the dawn

Many artists have recorded the song, including Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Bobby Darin, Barbra Streisand, Astrud Gilberto, Johnny Mathis and Engelbert Humperdink.

It was so good it won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year and the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

The best vocal version I came across tonight was, not surprisingly, Tony Bennett’s. He’s a master, of course, of slow, romantic songs. His phrasing and sense of timing are phenomenal. Time seems to slow down when you listen to a Bennett song.

For three and a half minutes, then, settle back and listen to this…

Even more haunting, if that’s possible, is the original Johnny Mandel arrangement with Jack Sheldon on trumpet. The instrumental version accompanies the opening of the movie, with the credits rolling against scenes of gentle, ocean waves lapping at a rocky shore line.

The effect is overwhelmingly soothing and calming. Relax again now and let this terrific song wash over you and soothe the soul…

 

2019 is about to be consigned to history, and, like all years, it’s been interesting and consequential, especially “at the juncture of journalism and daily life” here in KC and beyond.

So, let’s toast a few people, boo a few and put a question mark over the heads of a few.

:: U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff and Fiona Hill. (Thumbs up.)

Schiff and Hill were the stars, in my opinion, of the impeachment hearings. In devastating and yet almost throwaway fashion, Hill skewered President Trump as reckless and irresponsible when she said he sent lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others on “a domestic political errand” that put Ukraine’s defense at great risk.

And Schiff…Each day, at the conclusion of testimony before his House Intelligence Committee, he got the final say. And each day he delivered soaring and spontaneous “closing arguments” that held me at rapt attention. He concluded the fifth and final day with these words…

(I)n my view there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical President who believes they are above the law. And I would just say to people watching here at home and around the world, in the words of my great colleague (the late Rep. Elijah Cummings), we are better than that.

With that, eyes full of fire and fury, he slammed the gavel down and adjourned the meeting.

Whatever happens in the Senate is probably going to be anticlimactic, but, boy, those Intelligence Committee hearings — and I don’t care how many people weren’t watching — were really amazing.

:: The state…Missouri, that is. (Thumbs down.)

Mike Parson

It’s bad enough that Gov. Mike Parson, who succeeded one of the most crooked governors (Eric Greitens) we’ve ever had, is probably going to win re-election next year over State Auditor Nicole Galloway. Like Greitens, Parson would rather be lashed at the stake than comply with the Missouri Sunshine Law. But he waited ’til the end of the year to dip to his lowest point.

He went on Twitter and threw himself into Trump’s gelatinous embrace, calling impeachment a “scam” and declaring that Democrats “haven’t moved past Republican’s HISTORIC victory in 2016 and can’t beat our president at the ballot box in 2020.”

Did you notice how he mimicked Trump’s use of all-caps? Well, let me throw it right back at him: This governor is BAD!

:: The city…Kansas City, that is. (Thumbs sideways.)

Troy Schulte

I was sorry, of course, to see Troy Schulte leave City Hall — he was a driving force for betterment — and I’m hopeful he’ll be able to move Jackson County government toward respectability. With just minimal improvement on some fronts, he could probably run against and defeat his new boss, County Executive Frank White. On the other side of 12th Street, meanwhile, we’ve got another pro-development City Council, led by new Mayor Quinton Lucas, who, in campaigning against Jolie Justus, raised hopes he’d be less tolerant of tax giveaways to developers. He promptly dashed those hopes, however, refusing to veto the first giveaway he voted on as mayor and then voting for the next one.

But who knows — and he’s one we tag with a question mark — maybe he’ll change in his second term. Maybe he’ll even develop enough spine to take on the municipal pension-fund crisis in Term Two…I’ll say this for him, he’s engaging and energetic, and it looks like he’s not nearly as pretentious as Mayor Sly (who otherwise was a heck of a mayor.)

:: KCPD (Thumbs way down.)

Rick Smith

What Police Chief Rick Smith has shown so far, in his two-plus years as departmental commander, is he’s afraid of his shadow. And that’s a hell of a thing to say about a big-city police chief.

I cannot remember a KC Star story with any touch of controversy where Smith has been quoted. When he speaks publicly, it’s through his blog. The titles of his last two blog posts have been “KCPD’s unique governance model serves Kansas City well,” and “Study finds police are one of the most trusted groups in America.”

Meanwhile, we are living through what Mayor Lucas described in November as an “epidemic” of violence in the city, and on Sunday The Star published a front-page takeout that exposed the police department’s assault squad, which investigates nonfatal shootings, as “”woefully understaffed.”

And where was Rick Smith in that story? Liker many a Kansas City shooting suspect…”nowhere to be found.”

Instead of standing up for an interview, which he, as the department’s CEO should be most willing to do, he pawned the response duty off on Deputy Chief Roger Lewis.

Remember, too, that Smith succeeded another loser, Darryl Forte, who snuck out the back door in 2017 with $500,000 in accrued vacation, sick and comp time dangling from his pockets. During Forte’s watch, a scandal of epic proportions grew like a mustard seed in the children’s unit. The Star reported that several investigators in that unit did little or no work, sitting on cases for months and in some cases stuffing evidence in their desks with no notes to indicate which cases the evidence belonged to.

Sadly, we used to have a pretty damn good police department, but I’ve had no confidence in top management the last few years. All Kansas City residents should be worried.

:: McClatchy and The Star (Thumbs up, down and sideways.)

Now that it’s clear McClatchy is running out the clock — it’s got a $120-million pension-fund payment due in 2020 it can’t possibly meet — the remaining employees at the chain’s 29 daily papers will be strategizing for “life after McClatchy.” (By the way, the whole chain now has about the same number of employees, 2,500, as The Star had in the early 2000s.)

The Star made a big move in that direction earlier this month with its “Throwaway Kids” series about the pathetic state of the foster-care system in most states. KC Star editor-president-publisher (and probably admin-assistant) Mike Fannin is dying for a Pulitzer, and reporters Laura Bauer, Judy Thomas and Eric Adler just might get it for him (and themselves) with this effort. All involved have learned that to get a Pulitzer you have to not only go deep but also promote the hell out of your series and follow it up with one or more stories where experts say how important it was and how badly change is needed.

The Star planned and executed the strategy very well. Now it will be in the hands of a Pulitzer team of judges. If The Star wins, Fannin will be assured of a bright future in the narrowing field of journalism, and Bauer, Thomas and Adler would be able to go elsewhere, if they wanted, or just retire having reached the pinnacle of their field. If they don’t win, well, Fannin will still be OK, and Bauer, Thomas and Adler can either go elsewhere or retire having come close to the pinnacle of their field.

**

Mark Zieman

In this journalism segment, I would be remiss if I didn’t say farewell to Mark Zieman, onetime “boy-wonder” editor at The Star and now vice president of operations at McClatchy. Zieman is now approaching 60, and Tuesday will be his last day at McClatchy.

Zieman doesn’t have a lot of friends among former Star employees because, under him, scores were bought out or laid off. A former assistant managing editor who transitioned to Human Resources caught the front-line whiplash from the layoffs, but it was Zieman who was implementing the harsh orders from McClatchy executives in Sacramento.

I don’t know if Zieman is leaving voluntary or if he was asked to leave. Either way, I doubt if he will seek another job in journalism. He has made millions — last year’s total compensation package was about $1.8 million — and he’s got his Pulitzer. As projects editor at The Star, he directed the paper’s examination of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

But, in any event, let’s wish a Happy New Year to all, including ourselves, regardless of which way the thumbs are pointing. To loosely paraphrase Adam Schiff, we can all hope to do better.

The case of a casual-encounter-turned-deadly — an encounter between two lost souls of the world — drew to a close Thursday with a 26-year-old Ottawa, KS, man, Korrey Rinke, being sentenced to life in prison for killing a 46-year-old woman he had met at a clinical research program.

It’s the story of a young man, Rinke, who was so ignored as a child that he didn’t find out until after being arrested for murder that he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. It’s also the story of an older woman, Julianna Pappas, who was so disconnected that even the spelling of her first name is not entirely clear.

We do know how her life ended, however: Rinke beat her to death near the Indian Creek Trail in August 2016 after she refused to have sex with him because he didn’t have a condom. That’s what he told police, anyway.

Both these forgotten souls were directionless and drifting through their days when they met. Both were apparently drawn to the clinical research program at the former Quintiles company by the prospect of money…either extra money or money they needed just to get by. (Volunteers for some of these medical research programs can make thousands of dollars.)

Pappas

From what I’ve been able to find out, Pappas apparently moved to this area from Houston within about a year of crossing paths with Rinke. The only photo I’ve been able to find of her — a grainy one that looks like it might have been culled from a group photo — shows her to be a thin, shapely woman with long brown hair.

At some point, she had rented a room in a house near 39th and Campbell. She told a roommate (a woman who emailed me after I first wrote about the case) that she had had a felony drug conviction when she was young and that the conviction had made it difficult for her get housing and jobs.

Her means of transportation, at the time she hooked up with Rinke, was an electric bike.

After The Star reported Pappas’ death, I scoured the internet for information about her, but all I found was a one-sentence obit in the Houston Chronicle that had her first name as Juliaanna, with a double “a,” as in a combination of Julia and Anna. But every news report I’ve seen has had her name with just one “a” in the middle.)

The obit listed no survivors, but the former roommate said she had spoken of visiting her parents in Houston while she was living here.

Rinke

Rinke, for his part, was an alcoholic who worked for an Ottawa company that manufactured and installed covers for trucks. From information that came out at his sentencing, he could have been a poster boy for The Star’s series on the failing foster-care systems most states have.

During his confinement, he was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. A psychologist testified that the condition was worsened as Rinke was “bounced around the (foster care) system” throughout his childhood. Since he did not receive treatment for the condition as a child, the psychologist said, any treatment as an adult to address it would be “negligible.”

A co-worker of Rinke’s once wrote a comment on a blog post I had written about Pappas and Rinke. The commenter, who simply signed in as “Stephen,” said…

One thing that stands out to me is, every time we hired any female employees, he would be very awkward, inappropriate and some times rather sexist towards them. He would constantly ask them about their ‘sign.’ I knew something was off about him, but never would have expected this. Also, his father has been in and out of prison most of Korrey’s life.

At Thursday’s sentencing in Johnson County District Court (I did not attend), Rinke at least had the decency to express remorse.

“I’m sorry for drinking and I’m sorry for the death of Ms. Pappas,” The Star quoted him as saying.

As I would have expected, no one showed up to speak in person about Pappas. A prosecutor, however, read a statement from a brother who lives in Texas but apparently didn’t care enough to make the trip.

“She was a free spirit who trusted people,” the statement said in part. “Obviously…more than she should.”

The brother’s faceless statement stood as a biographical capsule of a woman whose early mistake probably contributed to her failure to make any kind of mark in life.

And Korrey Rinke? He will be eligible for parole in 25 years, when he’s about 50. What are the odds, do you think, of him turning his life around and making something of himself after he’s released…assuming he lives that long?

Sitting behind his curving, marble-faced court bench, Judge William B. Collins was eager to get a trial date set in the first-degree murder case of Kylr Yust.

Actually, he was more than eager; he was anxious.

“We need to get this set so we can take care of it,” he said, looking at the lawyers sitting at the prosecutor’s table and the defense table.

Assistant prosecutor Julie Tolle said, “We’re looking at October.”

…October, as in 10 months from now and nearly a year after Yust’s trial was originally scheduled to start.

At the mention of October, sighs went up from some of the 30 or more people who had come to the Cass County Justice Center this morning for a hearing in the case of Yust, who is charged with murdering Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions.

Collins wasn’t happy either…”We need to get this done,” he said.

Collins, who has been presiding judge in Cass County the last seven years, then began pushing back at the assertions of lawyers on both sides that they had other trials during the summer and couldn’t work the Yust case in until the fall.

He asked about June. No, that wouldn’t work, said one of Yust’s attorneys from the Missouri Public Defender’s Office.

“How about July, then?” Collins said.

Matt Vigil, one of Yust’s lawyers, said he had a trial in St. Louis starting July 13. But Collins kept pushing and finally got no objection to starting jury selection July 22. (Because of pre-trial publicity, a jury will be chosen in St. Charles County, and the jurors will then travel here to hear the case.)

**

It’s been a long wait for justice for the families and friends of Kopetsky and Runions.

Kara Kopetsky

Jessica Runions

Kopetsky was last seen May 2007 leaving Belton High School. Yust later told a friend he discarded her remains in a wooded area. Runions was last seen in September 2016 leaving a gathering with Yust. Witnesses at the gathering said Yust was drinking heavily and was “acting very possessive towards (Runions) and aggressive towards others at the party.”

The remains of both women were found in rural Cass County in April 2017. Six months later, Yust was charged with two counts of murder and two counts of abandonment of a corpse. He has been in the Cass County Jail ever since.

Yust

When Yust entered the courtroom this morning through a side door, he barely resembled how he has appeared in law enforcement mug shots. Instead of close-cropped hair, he had long, brown hair that covered his ears, the back of his neck and his forehead. The hair flipped up slightly in the front, and he had a full beard. All of his many tattoos were covered by drab, gray and white jail garb. Although he appeared calm and engaged, he never looked at anyone in the audience. I only saw him speak once to one of his attorneys.

His attorneys have filed several motions aimed at delaying the start of trial. One of those motions, that another mental-health exam be scheduled, fell by the wayside today. His attorneys said he is now receiving medication for psychological conditions that have been troubling him and that he no longer “lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense.”

In recent days, however, Yust’s attorneys have filed another seemingly spurious motion: They would like to have some of Kopetsky’s and Runions’ remains tested at a lab of their choosing, apparently to verify the Kansas City Police Department and FBI labs’ determination that the remains are, indeed, those of the deceased women.

Tolle, the assistant prosecutor, said this morning, however, that no part of the remains can be sent to a lab that is not accredited by a national accreditation organization. The lab the defense attorneys are proposing — Technical Associates Inc. in Ventura, CA — is not accredited.

“You didn’t know about the accreditation?” Judge Collins asked Yust’s attorneys.

“We just learned about it this morning,” Vigil said.

Collins scheduled a hearing on the remains-testing issue for Jan. 21.

He also eamarked July 7, 8 and 9 as days for other pre-trial motions to be taken up. “That should give everybody a chance to get all of these issues taken care of,” Collins said.

**

Well, we’ll see about that. Delay is the typical defense strategy in big cases, and Yust’s attorneys are in full-delay mode.

What was troubling today was that it appeared the prosecution was willing to indulge the defense strategy. The prosecution appears to have a strong case, and it may call scores of witnesses. But cases tend to weaken with time. Witnesses die (one already has in this case), move or otherwise slide away. And evidence sometimes gets stale, or even lost.

Judge William B. Collins

The people who sighed at the prosecutor’s suggestion of an October trial did so mainly because they are tired of waiting for justice to be served. But they also realized the hazard of 10 more months of delay. Their best hope for adjudication as soon as possible appears to rest with one person — Judge William B. Collins.