SAN ANTONIO – A new lead in the Lina Khil investigation has taken to new terrain Wednesday as the FBI’s underwater search and evidence response team and San Antonio police are canvassing a creek on the city’s Northwest Side.
The creek is about a quarter mile long and runs parallel to Huebner Road, roughly two miles from where the 3-year-old girl was last seen on Dec. 20.
Divers on Wednesday were seen navigating murky waters and deploying new technology that can detect debris in mud and salt, combing every inch in the hopes of finding anything that may help determine where she may be.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said the dive team is made up of 12 members who are experts in mapping out places like the creek. They will go as far as they need to satisfy the lead they are looking at, McManus said.
SAPD said the area is one that has not been covered until now and said they have been doing a lot of analytical work and comparison between different sources of information. But so far, no lead has led to a recovery.
Lina originally disappeared not far from the Villas Del Cabo apartment complex in the 9400 block of Fredericksburg Road. She was wearing a black jacket, red dress and black shoes the day she was reported missing.
Below is everything we know so far about the missing person case.
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 Dec. 20 is urged to contact 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, 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,” he said. “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 SAPD 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.
Officers continued searching areas surrounding the apartment complex, 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 said 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. on 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.