By Lee Edwards
A flicker of hope still remains for the family of Yasmin Acree that the missing 15-year-old Austin Polytechnical High school freshman may yet return home safely after being missing for 10 years.
The Acree family were joined by well-wishers and community supporters at Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave., the home of senior pastor Ira Acree, who is Yasmin's cousin, during a prayer vigil.
The Jan. 16 event was held nearly 10 years to the day when Acree was first reported missing from her home in Austin on Jan. 15, 2008. The emotionally charged assembly included a prayer, statements from the family and a call for assistance of any sort that may lead to her safe return home.
On the somber anniversary, Rev. Acree spoke on behalf of the family for the majority of the evening. He called attention to various elements of the case, including a substantiated claim of police misconduct and the unused confession of convicted rapist Jimmie Terrell Smith.
"I couldn't in my heart-of-hearts rally up a group of people one more time to say let's disperse some fliers in the neighborhood, because the truth of the matter is we've done that and we already know somebody knows something," said Acree. "We are here basically saying we need the media's help, but we also want, number one, for the Chicago Police Department to do their job."
Rev. Acree called for Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx to reopen the case.
"Time has taught us the State's Attorney's Office is not above corruption, so I think it's important that we reach out to State's Attorney Kim Foxx," said Acree. "She's a clean slate, she seems to be reasonable and a fair person."
Since Yasmin's disappearance, her adoptive mother, Rose Starnes, passed away in 2014. Shakelia Johnson, Starnes' only biological child, believes her mother's death was the result of the emotional agony and stress that Yasmin's disappearance caused.
"Waking up every day and asking questions that will never be answered," said Johnson. "Here it is I want to fight but I can't get the strength to do anything for the simple fact that I am dealing with the loss of my own mother and it's hard. No one calls anymore. Who do you call? Life goes on and you try to forget, but you can't when you love so hard, you can't. I just want to rest. I just need closure, it shouldn't be this way."
Cawanda Stern, Yasmin's cousin, implored anyone with any information to come forward.
"Yasmin was my little cousin and all we want is closure," said Stern. "We need whatever help we can get. Her mother is no longer here. Her sister is fighting, her cousin is fighting, anything can help."
Rev. Acree said that, regardless of Yasmin's whereabouts, closure is what the family is seeking most of all.
"If Yasmin is alive today it's a miracle but the reason we're praying is because we know as people of faith that our God is a miracle worker," said Acree. "We should be able to get some answers as sophisticated as law enforcement is today. If they can lead us to a resolution on this case that's all we are asking."
A reward of $10,000 for any information that leads to the whereabouts of Yasmin Acree has been raised. If anyone has any information please call (312) 746-8365.
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