Rose Starnes, the adoptive mother of Yasmin Acree, who went missing in 2008, died Monday after a long illness, according to family.
Starnes, 57, died in her Austin Boulevard apartment from complications of diabetes and end-stage renal disease, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner.
The six-year struggle to find Yasmin took its toll on Starnes, according to her cousin, Rev. Ira Acree, who stood by Starnes’ side at the many vigils and memorials marking Yasmin’s disappearance. Starnes’s death, he said, resulted from the “hurt and disappointment” from unanswered questions surrounding Yasmin’s disappearance.
“I know my cousin died of a broken heart,” Acree said during a Tuesday press conference at his church, Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller.
Acree noted that Starnes loved Yasmin and always feared she was being prostituted and held against her will.
“She really was haunted by that type of thought,” he said.
Starnes’ health began to decline in the years following the disappearance of Yasmin, who was only 15 at the time. A diabetic, Starnes suffered from kidney failure and high blood pressure. Shakelia Johnson, Starnes’ daughter, remembered her mother as “fun-loving and outspoken.” Johnson recalled that her mother felt alone, especially when some family members began criticizing her concerning Yasmin’s disappearance.
Her mother, she added, began to doubt her own actions and questioned “if she was to blame … [or] what could she have done differently.
“It got to the point where she can’t walk, because her legs are numb,” added Johnson, 36, of Elgin. “Sometimes she will tell me that she’ll get in the bed and just cry [and say] ‘I just want to go.’ What do you do? You have no answers.”
The family has vowed to continue to pressure police to make Yasmin’s case a priority.
The family’s search for justice has become more pointed after a man named Terrell Smith allegedly admitted to Starnes that he has information regarding Yasmin’s disappearance. Smith was arrested in 2009 and charged with a string of rapes and kidnappings between 2006 and 2009.
In August 2013, Starnes and Acree met with Smith. Both Starnes and Acree allege that Smith told them that Yasmin hanged herself and that he burned the body to dispose of it. Smith, a former neighbor of Yasmin’s, has not been charged by police in Yasmin’s disappearance. He is currently in Cook County Jail awaiting trial on unrelated charges.
“As of this day, we still don’t know what happened to Yasmin definitively, but [Smith] said that he helped facilitate her murder,” Acree said.
Reportedly, Smith took Yasmin to a garage where he allegedly helped her put a noose around her neck “and watched her hang herself,” Acree said — “That’s another burden that Rose had to carry.”
Smith’s alleged confession was of little comfort to Starnes or of any consequence to the police, according to Johnson.
Her mother, she added, wasn’t getting any justice, “because the police department knew all this information and have been holding it from her for the longest.”
That lack of cooperation, Johnson said, made her mother “want to give up. It’s like she had no hope to fight, because it was like she’s fighting a losing battle.”
Johnson said the battle is now hers to carry on for her mother. She said as long as her mother had breath in her body she always sought answers that she hoped would lead to Yasmin.
“Now that she is not here, I am going to continue to ask for answers,” Johnson said.
Austin Weekly News will have additional coverage in next week’s paper.