Saturday, July 5, 2008

Where on Earth is Yasmin Acree? Does Race Impact Missing Person Investigations?

When a teenage black girl from Chicago and two young white women from the suburbs all mysteriously vanished, would race be a consideration in the investigation and news coverage?

Yesterday, I attended a prayer vigil on behalf of a missing 15 year-old girl from Chicago's West Side, Yasmin Acree. It seems that Yasmin, the cousin of my dear friend, Rev. Ira J. Acree, has been missing for 6 months with no plausible explanations or police discoveries and no closure for family and friends.
I remember when she vanished from her home back in January '08. I'd heard about it on television and from the neighborhood grapevine. In fact, the newspaper I write for, the Windy City Word, ran her picture for about 3 weeks immediately following her disappearance.
Subsequently, when we heard nothing more about the investigation from electronic or mainstream press, I fugured she had been found or simply returned home.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Rev. Acree announcing the prayer vigil and the fact that Yasmin was still missing. As a member of the media I found his fact to be very disheartening in lieu of the very high-profile coverage given to two young women, Lisa Stebic and Stacy Peterson, suburbanites who have been missing for over a year, but whose stories remain fresh in the public's minds due to print and electronic news coverage.
My analytical mind tends to speculate the reasons why these cases have been handled so differently. Race.
Yasmin is a black girl from an inner-city community. Lisa and Stacy are young white women--wives and mothers who lived middle, class suburban lives. Yasmin is described as a basically good student and responsible teen who had no prior history of running away from home, who attended church regularly and who liked to hang out at the the YMCA; Lisa and Stacy were adults who were both admittedly involved in troubled marriages and who had both confided to their family and friends prior to their disappearances, that if anything were to happen to either of them that they should look to each of their husbands as suspects.

Lisa Stebic, who disappeared first, seems to have vanished into thin air. After numerous searches by family, friends, and strangers (and plenty of media coverage) there has not been a trace of her whereabouts. Her family continues to hope even after a year and a half that she is still alive.

Stacy Peterson vanished shortly after Lisa amid very suspicious circumstances. Relatives, friends, and even her pastor believe strongly that her husband might be responsible for her disappearance or at least knows more than he is telling. The husband, a police officer, maintains that Stacy has left he and their children and run off with another man. Her family says this scenario would be totally out of character.

As a part of her disappearance investigation the police exhumed the body of Stacy's husband's deceased former wife and autopsied her again. They reclassified her death from an accident to a homicide with her husband as a prime suspect. This woman's family maintained at the time of her death that it was not an accident but an orchestrated murder set up by this same husband.
The local police agencies have spared no expense in searching for these two young women.

Yasmin Acree is believed to be alive. has not received even a small portion of the high profile news coverage that these two women have commanded even though she is an underage minor and could not possibly be taking care of herself independently. Rev Acree maintains that the investigation into his cousin's disappearance is not yielding any results from the police detectives. All persons who may have seen her on the last day before she vanished have not been interviewed and thoroughly ruled out, including the former boyfriend of the young lady's mother.

Those folks watching closely include concerned clergy, family and friends, who feel that there appears to be some indifference on behalf of the Chicago Police Department in solving and closing this case. Could it be that race is playing a part in how this investigation is handled?


  1. Hi Vanessa,

    I ran into your blog via the Google search. I wanted to say a few things. First, I do agree with the thoughts that you posted.

    I personally believe that the media is solely responsible for the reasons that one families missing loved one is chronicled and followed, while another is overlooked. This is a true shame. I've also found that some of those who are media portrayed are usually always quite attractive. What about the overweight housewife/mother who has gone missing? We don't see those? The media is quite biased. Sensationalism sells. That's sad.

    Albeit, in the case of Lisa Stebic (not stRebic) and Stacy Peterson, both were mom's of young children and their spouses are suspect in their disappearances. The entire "story" behind Stacy's disappearance and her spouse is such a tangled web of deceit, previous homicide, abuse and so much more that it is surely one of the reason's the media has portrayed her missing status over and again. Similarily, the Laci Peterson case drew the same headlines due to the fact she was pregnant. (as the two previous military women , both killed, both pregnant.) It's sad that anyone who is loved is's also sad that the media does tend to portray those who have "image appeal".

    At the same time, there are thousands of missing people in the United States alone. More than I ever hoped to learn. I've been told that the media couldn't possibly cover all the missing loved ones, especially runaways, due to the overwhelming volume of those missing. Hopefully, the community they reside are stepping to the forefront and doing something to get the word out...albeit, unless there is a person to "stand and speak" for the missing in one's community...people tend to not want to "get involved". Sad, eh?

    On the positive side, do know there are also many numerous Organizations that will post flyers and posters and will do what they can to get the word out, as well. Many of those with lost loved ones missing will also hold fundraisers which invariably helps get the media involved to publicize the event.

    I personally have a MySpace dedicated to lost and missing and would be honored to post Yasmin's photo and a bit about her to help get the word out. I'm linked to aprox. 200 others with the same sites and each of those have their own numbers of links. I will create a banner for Yasmin and will get it posted in all the possible places online via Myspace and my web forum. ( Please email me the specifics and her photo. (In the meantime, I will research the web to see if I can obtain information to create my banner.) Please email me at

    In closing, I send prayers to Yasmin's family. While I cannot understand the awful pain they are going through, I can empathize. Prayers always.

  2. Here is the direct link to the banner I made for Yasmin.

    Prayers always.

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