Missing, murdered Black youth get unequal national media coverage

Natalee Holloway, Caylee Anthony, Elizabeth Smart and JonBenet Ramsey. Their missing persons and murder cases dominated national news coverage for months, sometimes for more than a year. Holloway, 18, went missing during a trip to Aruba in 2005. Anthony,

Natalee Holloway, Caylee Anthony, Elizabeth Smart and JonBenet Ramsey.

Their missing persons and murder cases dominated national news coverage for months, sometimes for more than a year.

Holloway, 18, went missing during a trip to Aruba in 2005. Anthony, 3, went missing from Florida in July. Smart, 14, went missing from Utah in 2002 but was found alive nine months later. Ramsey, 6, was found dead in her Colorado home in 1996.

Diamond and Tionda Bradley, Yasmine Acree and Mya Lyons are all from Chicago and still missing–except Lyons, who was fatally stabbed in July, around the same time Caylee Anthony reportedly went missing. Police have named her mother a suspect in the girl’s potential homicide.

The Anthony case is ongoing and is being covered by every major news network.

Greta Van Susteran’s show, On the Record, recently aired a one-hour special about the Caylee Anthony case, and CNN’s Nancy Grace Show is also scheduled to air a two-part special on the case.

Anthony’s disappearance overshadowed coverage of Mya Lyons’ case.

Lyons’ murder was only covered for a few days by FOXNews Channel on the Van Susteran and Geraldo Rivera shows, where the Defender provided updates on the Lyons case for both shows.

Her case was also featured as an exclusive on American’s Most Wanted Web site.

The 9-year-old girl was brutally stabbed in her head, neck and abdomen, and left for dead in an alley less than a block from her father’s home on the South Side. Her father found her clinging to life, but she died a few hours later. No suspects have been named in her case.

Coverage on Holloway was resurrected earlier this month but not because of new developments in her missing persons case. There will be a made-for-television movie by the Lifetime network about her 2005 disappearance.

There were also several movies made about the JonBenet Ramsey case.

So, what about the Bradley sisters, Acree and Lyons?

Diamond and Tionda Bradley went missing from their South Side home in 2001. They were ages 3 and 10 respectively. Their case initially garnered national attention and sparked the largest hunt in Chicago Police Department history. The Nancy Grace Show often features the sisters’ case and also did a one-hour special about their disappearance. Their case was also featured on AMW as was the cases for Holloway, Anthony, Smart and Ramsey.

The Bradley sisters’ family continues to keep their case in the spotlight by holding prayer vigils and marches every July 6, the day they disappeared seven years ago.

“I just know they are out there, and it’s important for us to let them know that we are still looking for them and want them home safely. I will do everything I can, and call everyone I can to help us bring Diamond and Tionda home,” the girls’ aunt Shelia Bradley-Smith told the Defender.

Bradley-Smith said keeping their case in the national spotlight helps tremendously in keeping the girls’ disappearance case from going stale.

“Every little bit helps,” she said.

Yasmine Acree, 15, went missing from her West Side home last January. Her case garnered no national news coverage.

Inquiries by the Defender to major news networks about the coverage of missing persons cases were not answered by press time.

Acree, an honor student at Austin Polytech High School, never made her bed the day she went missing, a huge red flag to her mother.

“I’m a strict parent, and that was one of the main priorities when you got up in the morning. You had to make your bed before you left the home. There wasn’t a day that went by when Yasmine didn’t make her bed. When I saw it not made up that day, I knew something was wrong,” her mother, Rose Starnes, told the Defender.

That wasn’t the only thing that was out of place that day. A lock on the basement door was also cut. Yasmine’s bedroom was in the lower level of the house.

Her mother called the police three times, she said, before an officer arrived.

When they left from taking the report, they left the lock at the home. “When I came back to the house a few days later, I asked why the police didn’t take the lock,” said Rev. Ira Acree, Yasmine’s cousin.

Acree immediately called for the police to come back to the home to collect “the evidence” that should not have been left behind, he said.

“That was a missed opportunity to dust for fingerprints and everything else they needed to do,” the reverend said.

Of the 31 Black girls from Illinois listed on the Web site www.missingkids.com as missing within the last 10 years, only three–Yasmine, Diamond and Tionda–are classified as “Endangered Missing,” the others are classified as “Endangered Runaway.”

Yasmine was originally listed as an “Endangered Runaway,” her mother said, until she called and demanded they change her status.

According to Starnes, the site listed her as a runaway because the police department had her listed as a missing person but also a potential runaway.

“I know in my heart that she didn’t run away. Everything was going good in her life. She was happy. What child runs away when they are happy. If anything, when they are punished and mad at the world, they may try to take off. But not when things are going really good. She did not run away,” the mother said.

Chicago police has the girl listed as only a missing person.

The girl’s family recently taped a segment for the Maury Povich Show, hoping to get some national coverage about the case. An air date has not been determined.

“It’s been hard on all of us, and we just want some help in getting her home. I know the (Chicago) detectives are doing all they can. I just think they are running into brick walls and don’t know where else to turn. Some national attention would definitely help,” she said.

Acree’s family speculates that Yasmine’s case, along with Mya’s, not getting the news attention that Holloway, Smart, Anthony and Ramsey received could be attributed to the “severity” of the cases and possibly because of race.

“In the Anthony case, there are so many updates coming out about the mother and things the police are finding. In the Holloway case, you’ve got a few people who were suspects but then were let go. I guess that keeps the cases fresh and in the spotlight,” Acree said.

Yasmine’s mother said she knows the media can’t focus on every missing person’s case, but there needs to be some balance in what is covered. The focus shouldn’t primarily be on children from white, suburban-type areas.

“What makes my child less deserving of national news coverage?” Starnes asked.

For more information on missing children, visit www.missingchildren. com.

To see photos from Mya Lyons’ funeral, click here.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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