As she wiped away tears, grieving mom Erica Carr made another impassioned plea on Friday, asking for the public’s help in locating her missing 15-year-old adopted daughter, Jassmyn, who disappeared more than two months ago.
“It’s been a complete nightmare,” Carr said at a press conference at Assemblyman Bill Scarborough’s office, where she was joined by the lawmaker, along with former City Councilman Archie Spigner and several runaway children advocates. “When she went missing I was terrified.”
Jassmyn had run away twice before, taking clothes with her each time, unlike this last incident. Her mother believes it may have been a last-minute decision, since she did go to classes that day — she attends the High School for Community Leadership, one of the new academies at Jamaica High — and even remarked in a conversation that morning that it would be silly for her to run away again.
In her journal, which she gave her mother permission to read, she said that the reason she had run away before is because she didn’t trust herself to make good decisions. “Because she said when she is questioned, right away she always lies, and she doesn’t know why,” Carr recalled of the journal entries.
Jassmyn has medical mental health issues, which led to some inappropriate behavior later on in her life, and caused her to get into trouble at school. Her biological mother is a career prostitute, now serving jail time in Virginia for theft, according to Carr.
“She’s always had counseling and psychiatrists — always — ever since she came to me,” Carr said. “She was born addicted to crack. ... and was malnourished when I got her, and they thought she was mute. So, she’s always had problems.”
Carr believes Jassmyn may have run away to Virginia to be with her mother and other family there. She also could have been trying to avoid continuing her mental health counseling or been afraid of getting into further trouble due to her problems at school.
“Come home, I love you no matter what,” Carr pleaded. “My love is unconditional.”
Carr said she has received a lackluster response from the 103rd Precinct and added that officers never went to Jassmyn’s school or tried to interview her fellow students.
“They just actually told me that I needed to accept the fact that it’s nearly impossible to find someone who doesn’t want to be found,” Carr said.
Joe Mazzilli, of the Runaway Assistance Program, whose staff consists of experienced former police detectives, said a major part of the problem in finding missing runaways is that groups like his do not have the subpoena power that is necessary to obtain critical information from organizations like Safe Horizon and Covenant House, which could be harboring missing youths.
He is advocating to get Patricia’s Law, which has been enacted in New Jersey, passed in New York. It mandates, among other things, that law enforcement disclose information about certain missing person investigations to parents and groups working on their behalf, as long as it would not adversely affect efforts to locate the person or to prosecute anyone in connection with the case. It would apply in instances where the subject is 13 to 21.
“We get so many cases a week and many of them could be solved in a day or two if we had subpoena power, because they’re all on the Internet,” Mazzilli said. “They’re using Twitter and everything else. And you want to catch the kid early before something happens.”
Carr worries that because Jassmyn is attractive and mature-looking for her age, she might become the victim of a sexual predator.
“As we all know, a runaway child is a missing person. No doubt about it,” Mazzilli said. “And a lot of them end up exploited and dead. ... It can be changed through legislation that could really help the families get information.”
The teen was last seen on Jan. 13 at 8:45 a.m. near Merrick Boulevard and 108th Avenue in Jamaica. Jassmyn was wearing a white blouse, black pants, gray and purple high top sneakers and a red Old Navy pea coat with large black buttons. She has brown eyes, is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds.
Jassmyn’s disappearance is classified as that of an endangered runaway and listed as case number USNY15740 on missingkids.com, the website of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Anyone with information about her whereabouts is asked to call 911 or the Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit at (212) 694-7781.