As search for missing 3-year-old Lina Khil continues, chief says lack of progress ‘disheartening’

Girl has been missing since Dec. 20

SAN ANTONIO – As the search for missing 3-year-old Lina Sardar Khil enters its ninth day, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus on Tuesday conceded investigators have not made much progress in the case.

Lina was first reported missing on the evening of Dec. 20 after she was last seen at the Villa Del Cabo apartment complex in the 9400 block of Fredericksburg.

Despite pouring massive resources into the search, along with a cash reward for information on her disappearance, McManus said no tips have gotten them closer to figuring out what happened to the child.

“There’s nothing that we haven’t done to try to find her,” McManus said. “It’s frustrating and disheartening, disappointing that we haven’t come up with something yet.”

Police have now shut down both command posts dedicated to the search, but McManus said “there is no lessening of the intensity of the investigation.”

Police and FBI agents are still working on the search together. Law enforcement officers are searching the greenbelts on the Northwest Side with K9 units in hopes of discovering new evidence.

Investigators are also going through “reams and reams” of data, trying to make links between surveillance videos and what witnesses have told them during the investigation.

When asked if there were any suspects being investigated in connection with Lina’s disappearance, McManus did not share much information.

“I will say that we’re looking at some people, yes, but I won’t get into it deeper than that,” he said.

Until then, police continue to treat Lina’s disappearance as a missing persons case and not an abduction.

Lina was last seen wearing a black jacket, red dress and black shoes.

The community held a prayer vigil for Lina on Friday at St. Francis Episcopal Church.

San Antonio police released the following video of Lina on Friday evening:

Here’s what else we know about the search for Lina as of Tuesday, Dec. 28.

SAPD asks for public’s help, tips to aid in search for Lina Khil

San Antonio police are asking for specific people to reach out to its Missing Persons Unit to help aid in the search for Lina.

Any residents who were at the Villas del Cabo Apartment Complex, which is located at 9400 Fredericksburg Road, between 4:30 p.m. to 5:10 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 20, are urged to contact SAPD at 210-207-7660 with “actionable tips.”

Also, anyone who spoke with Lina or her family at any time on Monday is urged to contact the police as soon as possible.

“No detail is too small as we continue to search for Lina,” SAPD said in a release.

Although the police presence at the family’s home looked different during the holiday, the department said their resources to aid in the search for Lina are being redirected “to be as proactive as possible.”

Police are treating the disappearance as a missing person case, not an abduction

Though San Antonio police asked the FBI to deploy its child abduction rapid response team to aid officers in their search, SAPD Chief William McManus clarified that investigators do not have any reason to believe Lina was abducted.

“If it were an abduction, we could be looking for an individual or have evidence of a child being abducted,” McManus said on Wednesday. “Right now, we don’t have any of that. That may change, but right now, it’s still a missing person.”

Another reason they are treating it as a missing person case is that there is not currently a suspect, he said.

SAPD has used canines in the search, which is still contained to the San Antonio area.

But the FBI’s rapid response team has resources that the department doesn’t, McManus said.

“If we have video that’s not real clear, they can work on their end to clarify any video footage,” he said. “They have resources, they have boots on the ground here that are helping us canvas the area.”

FBI agents have been seen knocking on residents doors, as well as checking in with nearby businesses.

“FBI showed up and they searched my apartment. They looked under the bed, under the couch outside They had this questionnaire. Going through questions, ‘Would you be willing to give a DNA sample if needed?’” said an apartment resident who did not want to be identified.

Alex de Hoyos, manager of the Belden’s Automotive across the street from the apartment complex, said he gave authorities the store’s security video on Monday.

The store’s cameras can see the entire entrance of the Villa Del Cabo complex, de Hoyos said, unfortunately, his cameras can’t see the side entrance of the apartments.

“Guy in plain clothes comes inside and flaps a badge and tells us what’s going on, and we were like, ‘Oh yeah, come on down. We’ll give you anything you need,” de Hoyos said.

Officers continued searching areas surrounding the apartment complex on Thursday, but as time passes, so do their chances of finding Lina.

“The longer the time lapses, the less hopeful we become,” McManus said.

Muslim community, Crime Stoppers offer $150K reward combined for information on Lina

The Islamic Center of San Antonio and Crime Stoppers are offering hefty rewards for information that leads to the arrest of a suspect involved in the disappearance of 3-year-old Lina Khil.

A cash reward was put up by the Islamic Center of San Antonio on Wednesday, Dec. 22. It initially started out as a $10,000 reward before multiple donations were received, totaling $100,000 on Thursday, Dec. 23.

Crime Stoppers also announced late Thursday, Dec. 23 it is also offering a reward of $50,000. Both rewards combined total $150,000, if the tip helps lead authorities to the young girl, and an arrest.

Lina and her family are refugees from Afghanistan

Margaret Constantino with the Center for Refugee Services told KSAT that the child’s family is among the Afghanistan refugees in San Antonio.

At least 1,300 people from Afghanistan have come through the Center for Refugee Services for resettling here.

While she knows very little about the family, including when exactly they came to the United States, Constantino says any missing child is everyone’s missing child.

“And like any big family with lots and lots of little kids, all of these children are precious to us,” she said. “Knowing this community, they’re very close-knit. So people will be out there beating the bushes, looking for this child.”

Lina disappeared at a playground

Lina was at a playground at the apartment complex with her mother and other children between 5-6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20, when her mother left and returned to find her daughter missing, the chief previously said.

It is unclear exactly how long the mother was away, but McManus said she returned a “short time later.” McManus said the girl wasn’t left alone and there were other kids at the playground, which is open within the complex.

The family reported the child missing around 7:15 p.m., and an AMBER Alert was issued.

Officers searched the area by foot and air that day but did not locate her. SAPD continued their search in the week and asked the FBI for assistance.

Officers went door by door to each apartment — there are under 300 units in the complex — to search for Lina.

Officers also searched for video, checked cars and dumpsters, and recorded license plates due to the “suspicious nature of the disappearance,” he added.

“We have every available asset in the police department working on the case right now,” he said, adding that “we are sparing no assets or resources.”

So far, the mother and residents have been cooperative, McManus said.

“Nobody comes and goes without talking to a police officer,” he said.

Anyone with information about her disappearance is asked to call SAPD’s missing person unit at 210-207-7660.

3-year-old Lina Sardar Khil, was last seen at a Northwest Side apartment complex Monday evening, Chief William McManus said. (Courtesy of SAPD)

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About the Authors

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

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