After four years missing, loved ones hold out hope for teen's return

'Until Yasmin is back home ...'

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By JERAMIE L. BIZZLE

Yasmin Acree's family and friends have remained hopeful that the missing teen will return home safe.

The four years since her disappearance hasn't dampened that believe but not knowing where Yasmin is has been heart-wrenching for her loved ones. Those feelings are exasperated around this time of year, when Yasmin disappeared from her Austin home.

Her loved ones gathered at the Congress Parkway home last Saturday Jan. 14, to mark the fourth year of Yasmin's disappearance. She went missing during the early morning of Jan. 15, 2008, the last time she was seen by any relatives. She was 15 years old at the time of her disappearance and turned 19 this past Oct. 25. The family believes she was taken from her home while Rose Starnes, Yasmin's aunt and legal guardian, was away on vacation.

Friends, family and neighbors gathered outside her home to pray and sing songs of faith in hopes of Yasmin return. Rev. Marshall Hatch of New Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church led the group in prayer. A family friend and co-founder of West Side clergy group, The LEADER's Network, Hatch told the crowd that this situation affects everyone.

"Until Yasmin is back home, no child is safe," he said.

Rev. Ira Acree, Yasmin's pastor and cousin, told the gathering crowd that she is a happy and content young girl who was also an honor student. Yasmin is a student at Austin Polytechnical Academy.

The family is often asked, he said, why haven't they given up on the search since it's been four years? The pastor said they won't give up and will continue to look for her.

Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church and LEADER's Network co-founder, also sent an appeal to whoever is responsible for her disappearance - "Let her go," the pastor said.

An emotional Starnes, who's referred to often as Yasmin's mother, wanted to thank everyone for their support and admits that this has been a hard four years for the family.

"I want to let her know that they love her and miss her, and are doing their best to get her back," she said.

The news of her disappearance has touched many, including Andrew Jones and former Chicago Bulls Player Mickey Johnson, who spoke and attended last Saturday's vigil. The two offered an additional thousand dollars each to the existing reward offered by the family for information leading to Yasmin's discovery.

"We should educate everyone through us," Jones said; "make it a priority that this is your daughter too.

That everyone - from rappers to R&B artists - should participate in placing billboards of these missing children behind them."

According to Chicago police, numerous tips have been reported to the department concerning Yasmin's case, but still no leads to her whereabouts. At Saturday's vigil, her friends and family walked the neighborhood to pass out fliers. The family has released an update one showing a computer enhancement of how Yasmin might look today.

They also urged everyone to look out for her, and if they have any information to contact the police or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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