It's been a tumultuous five years for the family of Yasmin Acree, the Chicago teen who went missing from her Austin home in 2008 at the age of 15. Thursday, Acree's family remembered her on what would have been her 20th birthday.
Acree's mother Rose Starnes had little more than photos of her daughter to hold on to during a vigil on Thursday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Few clues have surfaced in the five years since Acree went missing. Since early in the investigation, family and community leaders have criticized the police for mishandling the case, with the most significant portion of new information discovered by the Tribune's investigative reporting team in 2011.
"It's hard because it's going on five years," said Starnes, reported by ABC Chicago. "I would still like to know what's going on with her. Because that's the hardest part, not knowing if she's dead or alive."
Family, friends and local religious leaders attended the vigil at North Austin’s Greater St. John Bible Church, reports the Tribune. Along with candles and momentos were several computer print-outs of an age-enhanced photo of Yasmin.
ABC writes Acree's family has also upped the reward for information on their daughter to $10,000.
The reward is just a fraction of what an Ohio restaurant owner offered for Stacy Peterson, the missing wife of convicted murderer, Drew Peterson. In August, Jeff Ruby offered $100,000 for the missing Bolingbrook 23-year-old. The family of Lisa Stebic, meanwhile, offered $75,000 for information on the Plainfield, Ill. mother who vanished in April of 2007.
Community leaders and media critics have cited the "Missing White Woman Syndrome" in relation to the police and the media's alleged lack of attention to the case. Both Peterson and Stebic were young, white, middle-class women, whereas Acree was a black teenager from one of the city's most economically depressed areas.
ABC notes that police initially assessed Acree's disappearance as a runaway, later acknowledging detectives had mishandled the investigation.
“We need divine intervention," said Rev. Ira Acree, cousin of Yasmin, to the Tribune. "We’re looking for a miracle.”