Where is Lina Khil? South Texas Crime Stories

Then 3 year old Lina Khil vanished from her family’s apartment complex on the Northwest Side on December 20th.

South Texas Crime Stories; Where is Lina Khil? (Copyright 2022 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

It has been over six months since then-3-year-old Lina Khil vanished from her family’s apartment complex.

Lina was last seen on Dec. 20, 2021, at the Villas del Cabo apartment complex in the 9400 block of Fredericksburg. Her disappearance has sparked many questions.

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KSAT sat down with San Antonio Police Chief William McManus about the case to see where it is and where it goes from here.

“As soon as we got word, you know, the search was on, and we had resources at the apartment complex where she lived. We searched everybody going in, everybody going out before it was all over,” McManus said. “We actually knocked on every door in that complex, and we spoke with everyone who lived there -- some of them more than once.

“So subsequent to that, you know, we went to search greenways, green belts. Of course, we searched the creek a little bit later on. But we canvased the area for closed-circuit TV video. I mean, there was no stone left unturned in the search for Lina early on, midway and later on. You know, we did not let up.

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Nobody disappears into thin air. Something happened to her’: Chief McManus discusses Lina Khil case

“We got a lot of tips. We ran down every single tip that we got, which, you know, did not lead us to Lina. But we ran down every single tip. We worked closely with the FBI. We still do. We still get a few tips. Not very many of these days, but we run down every one of them.

“The case as of recently? Well, not recently, but the case has gone from missing persons to the Special Victims Unit, where we’re doing everything we would normally do if it were an abduction. But we still don’t have any evidence or proof that it was an abduction. So we still we’re doing it. It’s kind of a hybrid missing person and abduction.”

McManus said Lina’s case was turned over to the Special Victims Unit in the early days of the investigation.

“So the difference is when there’s a missing person report, and the missing person’s unit doesn’t go out and do street work fieldwork,” McManus said. “SVU will. They’ll go out on the street, the field. They’ll interview people out there, whereas missing persons wouldn’t necessarily do that. They don’t do that. So that’s the distinction between SVU and missing persons.”

Throughout the course of her disappearance, SAPD has maintained this is a missing person’s case and not an abduction case, even with members of the community pointing fingers at abduction.

Community members gather for prayer service six months after Lina Khil's disappearance

“If someone were to have information that that Lina was abducted. If there were video, if there were any kind of evidence of an abduction, we would have classified it as an abduction. But since we don’t have that, we can’t classify it as an abduction,” McManus said.

Treating Lina’s case as a hybrid investigation allows the department to utilize more resources.

“That’s the difference. I mean, we’re utilizing resources that we wouldn’t necessarily use in a missing person investigation,” McManus said.

“When a person goes missing, especially when a child goes missing who’s just 3 years old at the time, people wonder how far can a 3-year-old actually get on her own? Should we have found her at this point if someone didn’t take her?” KSAT reporter Leigh Waldman asked McManus.

“Well, I mean, that’s the big mystery. I know it’s still baffling as to how she could have gone missing, and then and then no evidence at all of what happened to her. It just, it is baffling,” McManus said.

“I don’t have any idea. I don’t think any of us do. You know, the FBI still has a full-time person on this. As I mentioned, we shifted the case over to SVU from the Missing Persons Unit, so we are still on it. Lina has certainly not been forgotten.

“There’s still work to be done. As tips come in, we had, I think, a couple of tips in June. None of them led anywhere. One of them was suggesting equipment we might use to further our search. Another one was from a psychic, but nothing came of that.”

The hope of finding Lina alive and safe starts to diminish as more time passes without a conclusion in the case.

“Unfortunately, it does, to be candid. We are still devoting the resources necessary to locate her based on the tips we get. We will use whatever resource we need to follow up on a tip,” McManus said.

Lina was at a playground at the apartment complex with her mother and other children between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. when her mother left and returned to find her daughter missing, the chief said in a news conference in December.

It is unclear exactly how long Lina’s mother was away, but McManus said she returned a “short time later.”

“We have resolved any issues we had with discrepancies in reporting,” McManus said.

In the days immediately following Lina’s disappearance, McManus said he was disheartened by the lack of movement on her case.

“You know, again, it’s baffling. I’ve never come across a case where someone just vanished,” the chief said. “And we have no clue, no reports of where she might be or what might have happened to her. I’ve not come across a case like that.”

“Does this case seem to be proving that she just disappeared out of thin air?” reporter Leigh Waldman asked.

“Well, I mean, you know, that’s a slick thing. But, I mean, nobody disappears into thin air. Something happened to her. We just haven’t been able to discover what it was,” McManus said.

In the initial days after Lina’s disappearance, there was an abundance of tips coming in. In the last few months, those tips have slowed down tremendously.

“First day or today, our goal remains the same. And that is to try to find Lina, to try to get some information as to what happened to her,” McManus said. “But we could follow up on a matter where it would take us. We have the resources between us, APD and the FBI to do that. And that’s where we are right now. You know, we are still hoping to get some information that will lead us to her. But so far, it hasn’t come in.”

“There’s all kinds of cases that are solved years down the road. If we can’t solve Lina sooner, then hopefully we can solve it later,” the chief added.

The community came out in droves to search for Lina in the days and weeks after she vanished. SAPD joined them in hopes we don’t see the anniversary of her disappearance without answers.

“The investigation continues as it has been. You know, again, no resource is too much. Anything we need to do to follow up on a tip or a lead or evidence -- we’re going to do that today, six months from now, two years from now. We’re going to continue to follow up on any information that might lead us to Lina or what might have happened to Lina,” McManus said.

“Are you all exploring the possibility of human trafficking at all as well?” Leigh Waldman asked McManus.

“There’s a number of theories that we’ve discussed that might have happened to Lina, but we just don’t know,” he responded.

“And as far as theories, as far as narratives, as to what we think might have happened, is there anything you can share that’s holding any water?” Leigh Waldman asked.

“I can’t even speculate. I won’t speculate,” the chief replied.

McManus said he’s personally frustrated by the case and wants it to have a conclusion.

“Nobody wants to see that happen to anybody. But a little girl who is defenseless knows no one here. No one especially wants to see that happen,” he said.

The chief reminds people to call in any information they have. He said nothing is too small to report.

“It’s important for the public to know that, if they get information, no matter how insignificant, they should call it in,” McManus said.

The number to call for the Missing Persons Unit is (210)207-7660, or call Crime Stoppers at (210)224-7867.

Crime Stoppers is offering a $50,000 reward for information on Lina, and the Islamic Center of San Antonio is offering $200,000 for information.

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About the Authors:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.