Friday, June 24, 2022

The Disappearance of Yasmin Acree

 

Yasmin Acree has been missing since January 15th, 2008. The young girl was only 15 years-old at the time of her disappearance. Despite her young age, Yasmin had already been through very many hardships in her life. She spent several of her childhood years in Kentucky's foster system, during which she faced both physical and sexual abuse. In 2001, Yasmin and her older brother Damarcus went to live with Rose Mae Starnes - an aunt through marriage - in Chicago, Illinois. Rose officially adopted them both in 2006.

According to relatives, both Yasmin and Damarcus struggled with behavioral issues due to their years of traumatic experiences. However, Yasmin was still an honor roll student and received good grades up until she finished middle school. In 2007, she began her freshman year of high school, and her grades began to slip. Around the same time, Rose kicked Damarcus out of the home - leaving Yasmin as the only child in the residence during the months leading up to her disappearance.

The day Yasmin was last seen was a seemingly normal day. Rose was out of town at the time, but her boyfriend Charles Burt was at the home. According to reports, Yasmin went to school that day and then went to the local YMCA. She returned home that evening and did a load of laundry before going to bed. The following morning, Charles was taking out the trash when he noticed the door to the basement - where Yasmin slept - was opened. Upon closer look, he noticed that the door jamb was broken, and the padlock had been cut - indicating that someone had broken in. Yasmin was not in the basement, but Charles thought she had gone to school early, and that the break-in had happened after she left.

Rose returned home later that day. When Yasmin never returned home that evening, Rose called police to file a missing persons' report. Police came to the residence, but they did not collect evidence from the break-in scene - despite the fact that the break-in occurred through Yasmin's bedroom door. After interviewing a few of Yasmin's friends, police deemed her a runaway. This is likely due to the fact some of Yasmin's classmates told police that Yasmin left on her own accord, and that they had since heard from her via phone. Cell phone records would later confirm that this was false, and two girls would later admit to misleading police. 

As time continued to pass without any sign of Yasmin, many began to criticize the Chicago police's handling of the case. Not only did they not collect crucial evidence from the home, but police also failed to identify and/or question other tenants who had lived in the same residence as Yasmin. It would take a year-and-half before police would learn that a violent offender had lived in the home prior to Yasmin's disappearance. This information, along with information discovered by reporters from the Chicago Tribune, finally led to some viable theories in Yasmin's case. 

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An offender in the home.

In 2009, a man named Jimmie Terrell Smith was arrested on charges of raping five females, two of whom were 14-year-old girls he also allegedly kidnapped. Yasmin's adoptive mother Rose saw a news broadcast about Smith's arrest and was prompted to contact detectives. She subsequently told them that Smith and Yasmin knew each other. 

During 2005, Smith lived in a second-floor room in Rose's building. Prior to moving in, Smith had served ten years in prison due to an attempted murder conviction. Smith was already on public record as a convicted felon, yet police were unaware that he lived in the same home as a missing child until a year-and-a-half after said child's disappearance.

Jimmie Terrell Smith

Yasmin's relationship with Smith & her diary.

Smith was in his 30s at the time he was Rose's tenant. He reportedly took a liking to Yasmin, who was only 12 or 13 at the time. At one gathering, family members witnessed Smith giving Yasmin a beer and stroking her hair. At another gathering, Smith was heard complimenting Yasmin's looks. Smith and Yasmin reportedly kept in touch even after Smith moved out. In fact, the two saw each other at a family gathering that occurred approximately two weeks before Yasmin's disappearance.

In 2011, an article from the Chicago Tribune stated that their reporters uncovered Yasmin's diary - an item that police did not yet know existed. Yasmin reportedly wrote affectionately about Smith a few times in the diary, referring to him as "Tyrell". She scribbled things such as "I miss Tyrell..." and "I miss him and his sexy ass".

Interviews with Smith.

Once detectives were finally made aware of this information, they went to interview Smith. It's unclear what, exactly, Smith told detectives, but afterwards they had a warrant to search a home he had previously lived in. It is also unclear what was found during said searches. 

In 2011, Smith also spoke to reporters from the Tribune. During this interview, he said he knew what happened to Yasmin, but he was not going to speak up about it. Smith still did not admit direct involvement in her disappearance at that time.

Around two years later, in 2013, Rose went to meet with Smith at Cook County Jail. According to a timeline on uncovered.com, Smith admitted to involvement in Yasmin's disappearance during this meeting. The timeline states, "he tells her family that [Yasmin] had committed suicide. He claims that he had taken her to a house in the 2200 block of South Spaulding, but that he had burned her body in a garbage can to dispose of her body."

Police have not found any evidence to support Smith's claims. It's worth noting that Smith has a history of fabricating events, so many have had reasons to doubt his story. It's also worth noting that Yasmin's loved ones do not believe that Yasmin committed suicide - but they do believe that Smith is involved in her disappearance.

In 2017, Smith was sentenced to 110 years in prison after being convicted of the unrelated rape and kidnapping charges. As of today, he has not been charged with anything related to Yasmin's disappearance. 

A struggling family and a broken system.

Rose died in 2014 after years of battling health issues. Yasmin's remaining family members are still dedicated to learning the truth about what happened to her. Many have criticized the Chicago police for not thoroughly investigating Yasmin's disappearance. Some others have questioned if Yasmin was failed by the system before she ever vanished.

As previously stated, Yasmin and her brother Damarcus spent many years in the foster system during their early childhood. Before that, they lived with their biological mother, who struggled with drug addiction. Yasmin and Damarcus spent many of their young years being shuffled between their mother's home, group homes, and foster homes. It was during those years that they experienced horrific abuse. 

At one point, they settled with a foster family where they seemed to be doing well. After being with this family for two years, Yasmin and Damarcus' biological mother declared that she wanted them to live with family. The two siblings were then subsequently sent to Chicago to live with Rose. 

Although Rose loved Yasmin and Damarcus, she struggled with their behavioral issues as well. She admits to disciplining them by whipping them and locking them in the basement. Case workers routinely visited the home - including during the time period in which Smith was living there - but this was never documented by social services. Therefore, this information was not immediately on detective's radar when Yasmin was reported missing. Still, it appears detectives also failed to properly identify people in Yasmin's life. 

Where the case stands today.

Yasmin remains missing today. No suspects or persons of interest have been publicly identified. Many speculate that Smith is responsible for Yasmin's disappearance, but he has yet to be charged with anything related to her case.

There is a monetary reward available for anyone with information that could lead to Yasmin's whereabouts. If you have any information that could help the investigation, please submit a tip. 
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