Clutching a laminated poster with her daughter’s eighth-grade graduation picture across her chest, tears fell down Rose Starnes’ face.
On what would be her daughter’s 20th birthday she wasn’t celebrating. Starnes was still wondering where she is.
“It’s still hard every day, but the hardest part is not knowing,” Starnes said. “We need some type of closure.”
Fifteen-year-old Yasmin Acree went missing from her home in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood in January 2008, and authorities still have yet to find answers in her disappearance. Police have been criticized for initially dismissing the case and assuming she might be a runaway.
A year after Yasmin went missing, police admitted to mishandling the case. An Internal Affairs Division letter to Starnes acknowledged that there was misconduct in the investigation.
Family, friends and local religious leaders gathered Thursday evening at North Austin’s Greater St. John Bible Church to mark Yasmin’s birthday with prayer and a candlelight vigil. Lying on small church’s red pews were a handful of computer print-outs of an age-enhanced photo of Yasmin.
Starnes said the lack of contact from Yasmin darkens the family’s outlook on her whereabouts.
“Yasmin was very smart. It makes us wonder,” Starnes said, wiping away tears. “But we hate to give up that little hope.”
Through song and prayer, vigil attendees spoke of Yasmin’s disappearance and comforted one another.
Many held tall white candles and posters with her picture and “We Miss You” written across the top.
“We need the police department to make this a top priority,” the Rev. Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church said. “We will not go away and we will not forget until Yasmin is found.”
The Rev. Cy Fields, senior pastor of New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, said the reward for information on Yasmin’s whereabouts was recently upped from $7,500 to $10,000.
“There is systematic bias in our society when black or brown children go missing,” Fields said. “No child, no family deserves to be abandoned.”
Yasmin’s cousin the Rev. Ira Acree said people asked him why they didn’t plan Yasmin’s yearly remembrance as a rally outside a police station.
“You go to God,” Acree said. “We need divine intervention. We’re looking for a miracle.”Copyright © 2015, RedEye