After discovering that the police investigation into the disappearance of missing Austin teen Yasmin Acree was mishandled, the girl’s family is optimistic that the case is finally back on track after meeting last week with department officials.

Family and friends of the missing girl, who disappeared in January 2008, met with Supt. Jody Weis last Thursday at police headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan, to discuss the case. The meeting was set up following the announcement by Internal Affairs that there was misconduct by members of the police department in Yasmin’s case. Following that omission, the family and community activists went to police headquarters on Sept. 10, to demand a meeting with the superintendent.

Last Thursday’s meeting addressed possible penalties for the officers involved and where the search for Yasmin currently stands.

“All in all, we are pleased with the meeting with Supt. Weis,” said Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in West Garfield Park. “He assured us that he would see to it that the officers involved are reprimanded according to department procedure. He also said that Yasmin’s case will be given the highest priority.”

Details concerning disciplinary actions for officers, and exactly how many man hours would be devoted to the case were not disclosed. According to the family, the police have expanded their search outside of Chicago and the state of Illinois. Last week, the family raised the reward for information leading to the teen’s return from $3,000 to $5,000. The police department refused to comment on the case.  

The Internal Affairs investigation was spearheaded by Yasmin’s mother, Rose Starnes, who filed a complaint in July 2008, accusing officers of mishandling the investigation. Yasmin disappeared from her home sometime in the early morning of Jan. 15, 2008. She turns 17 in October. Along with not securing the crime scene in the home and thoroughly examining evidence there, the family maintained that the police’s contention that Yasmin was a runaway also undermined the search.

“We lost a lot of time because of the way the case was handled in the beginning,” said Rev. Ira Acree, Yasmin’s cousin and pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church. “But we are optimistic that the superintendent will do what he says and devote more time to finding out what happened to Yasmin. We take him at his word.”

Starnes, speaking at a press conference last Thursday following the meeting, said few words but the anguish in her face spoke volumes. Barely holding back tears, she responded to all queries about the investigation by simply saying, “I just want my daughter home. I just want my daughter back safe.”

Terry Dean contributed to this story.

Finding Yasmin

Yasmin Acree went missing Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2008.

She was 15 years old at the time of her disappearance.

Yasmin is 5 feet 1, weighs 125 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information should call Chicago Police Area 5 Missing Persons: 312-746-6399.