In an effort to jumpstart the search for missing Austin teen Yasmin Acree, Chicago Police last week dispatched an official to meet with the girl’s family to discuss a new strategy for locating her, including bringing in an FBI profiler in the search.
The meeting took place on Friday at Yasmin’s home on the 4800 block of West Congress Parkway. CPD Chief Tina Scahill met with family members Rose Starnes, the girl’s mother, and Rev. Ira Acree, Yasmin’s cousin. Also attending were reverends Marshall Hatch and Cy Fields of the LEADER’s Network, an organization of West Side pastors.
During the hour-long discussion, Scahill announced that Police Supt. Jody Weis had contacted Chicago Regional FBI Director Robert Grant about the girl’s disappearance, prompting the director to hire a profiler on the case. The announcement was received positively by Acree, who spoke with Austin Weekly News shortly after the meeting with police. Reverend Acree had previously suggested for Weis to use his FBI connections to get the bureau involved in the case. Weis served with the FBI for more than 20 years before becoming superintendent of the Chicago Police Department in February 2008.
Fields, however, was less optimistic about the profiler, arguing that it may be too little too late.
“Yasmin has been missing for nearly 21-months and now they do a profile on her. I think the department has wasted so much time,” he said. “I don’t know how much of an impact it will have at this point.”
Scahill added that the department will finance and distribute hundreds of new flyers throughout the city. These new posters will place more emphasis on the $5,000 reward being offered by the teen’s family for information leading to her return.
“When Chief Scahill had heard about the reward,” said Acree, “she told us that it must be front and center in our flyers. She said that letting more people know about the reward may give incentive to those who have information about the case but for one reason or another have remained silent.”
Fields, though, urged for an increase in manpower with CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) and Crime Stoppers as a more effective means in finding Yasmin.
“I appreciate the fact that the department will offer more flyers, but we can do that through the church,” said Fields.
“We need to get more agencies involved with this case. That’s what we need right now. So far, I am disappointed with the effort of the police department [to make amends] after botching the initial search effort,” Fields added, referencing a recent Police Internal Affairs investigation that found misconduct by officers in the missing teen’s case.
Police have not commented publicly about her case.
Friday’s meeting with police also included a poignant moment, recalled Acree, as he explained to Scahill the conditions in the basement where Yasmin was last seen by her family.
“I was showing her the condition the door was in and the way the lock was cut,” he said, noting that others in the room were becoming visibly shaken. “[Off. Scahill] chose to keep her distance. It was an emotional moment for myself and Rose.”
Fields concurred, saying that was the moment when all the mistakes and speculation made in Yasmin’s case since her disappearance last year came flooding into their minds.
“I was certainly shaken up; I have two daughters of my own, and I don’t know what I’d do if they went missing for any stretch of time,” he said.
Terry Dean contributed to this story.