Relatives and friends of a teen-aged girl who went missing from the Austin neighborhood nearly four years ago teamed up with Chicago Police Saturday to renew a public plea for information related to Yasmin Acree’s whereabouts.
Acree disappeared from her home in the 4800 block of West Congress Parkway on Jan. 15 or 16, 2008. She would be 19 now.
“This day is always a hard day for me,” said Rose Starnes, a relative by marriage who adopted Acree. “Four years, and nothing concrete. I know that people are working and trying, but nothing has brought Yasmin back to us.”
Community members went through the neighborhood Saturday afternoon, distributing fliers with an age-enhanced photo of Acree on parked cars and to passing motorists. Meanwhile, Starnes sat among relatives in her living room at the Congress Parkway home, subdued and lamenting the lack of clarity on the four-year-old mystery.
“I just miss her,” she said. “ I don’t know if she’s out there, if she’s alive, if she’s being tortured. I wonder what she would look like now. I wonder will I ever see her again, will I ever get to hug her or kiss her?”
Starnes also said that while she has not given up hope of finding Acree alive, one false lead after another has taken its toll.
Numerous people have contacted the police claiming to have seen Acree or someone resembling her, she said. Once, just a few days after Acree went missing, police came by Starnes’s home with a girl matching her daughter’s description.
“My hopes are never up until I see Yasmin again,” Starnes said. “I hope that when I get some news, it will be that she’s still alive, even though I know it’s possible that she might not be.”
“Sometimes you see those Lifetime (cable TV network) movies with the happy ending. When is our happy ending?” said Starnes’ daughter, Shakelia Johnson, 34. “When will our questions be answered?”
No one has been charged in Acree’s disappearance and the police investigation has been frequently criticized. In 2011, Tribune reporters uncovered a diary of Acree’s that police had not found. Acree’s diary entries twice referenced a now 36-year-old man on parole for attempted murder who lived in her building, a fact detectives did not learn until nearly a year and a half into their investigation.
That man, Jimmie Terrell Smith, is now in Cook County Jail awaiting trial in a series of rapes. Among other crimes, Smith is accused of abducting and raping four young women over two days, including three of his then-girlfriend's daughters in May 2009. Smith has been questioned by police in connection with Acree’s disappearance, as well.
Despite their grief, Johnson said the family appreciated the ongoing support from the community.
“It feels good that people still care,” Johnson said. “People will never stop fighting to find her, or trying to find out what happened to her. Whatever she’s going through, we’ll always be by her side.”
Police said that anyone with information should contact The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678, or the Grand Central Area Special Victims Unit at (312) 746-8365.