SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio nonprofit organization and several community members gathered Sunday to help locate missing 3-year-old Lina Sardar Khil, as the search enters its third week.
Lina was first reported missing on the evening of Dec. 20 after she was last seen at the Villa Del Cabo apartment complex, located in the 9400 block of Fredericksburg Road. At the time she disappeared, she was wearing a black jacket, red dress and black shoes.
The Eagles Flight Advocacy & Outreach organization and an estimated 150 people in the Afghan community joined forces at 9 a.m. Sunday to search for Lina in the greenbelt area behind St. George Maronite Catholic Church on Babcock Road.
Despite their efforts, Lina’s whereabouts are still unknown. By Sunday afternoon, law enforcement issued a 13th Amber Alert in her disappearance.
Various resources have already been poured into the search, and a hefty reward is being offered by Crime Stoppers and The Islamic Center of San Antonio for any tips that help uncover what happened to Lina.
Police and FBI agents are partnering in the investigation, and so far, they’ve searched greenbelts on the Northwest Side with K9 units, interviewed witnesses, sifted through surveillance footage, and more, though leads are still slim.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus did allude last week that there could be possible suspects connected to her disappearance, but details are limited.
“I will say that we’re looking at some people, yes, but I won’t get into it deeper than that,” McManus previously said.
In the meantime, police are continuing to treat Lina’s disappearance as a missing persons case and not an abduction.
Here’s what else we know about the search for Lina as of Sunday, Jan. 2:
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
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.