United States

Saudi Sisters Found Dead in Hudson River Reported Abuse in Virginia

A witness believes he saw Rotana Farea, 22, and Tala Farea, 16, praying the day their bodies were found

The two young Saudi sisters who vanished from Virginia and were found dead on a bank of the Hudson River reported abuse at home and were seen praying at a playground near the river the day their bodies were discovered.

Sixteen-year-old Tala Farea and 22-year-old Rotana Farea were found dead, tied together at the waist and facing each other, on Oct. 24. The NYPD revealed new details Friday about their mysterious disappearance and deaths.

"At this point in time, we have no credible information that any crime took place in New York City," NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said at a briefing Friday. 

However, the investigation is ongoing.

A man whose daily exercise routine takes him near Riverside Park, not far from the Hudson River, called the NYPD on Halloween to report that he saw two young women — believed to be the Farea sisters — alive, apparently praying at a playground, the day their bodies were found.

Calling the witness "credible," Shea said the man reported seeing the women about 30 feet apart; they appeared to be alone, had their heads lowered and appeared to be praying.

The witness told police that image had been "haunting" him.

Later that day, a passerby on the bike path nearby saw two bodies in the water, tied together at the waist and fully clothed. That passerby called 911. The young women in the water would be identified as the Farea sisters.

Shea said detectives are looking into reports that the Saudi nationals requested political asylum. Police also are looking into statements the sisters allegedly made saying they would rather die than return to Saudi Arabia.

They had stayed at a "shelter-like facility" in Virginia after they reported that they were abused. 

The medical examiner's office has yet to rule on a cause or manner death for either sister, but Shea said it seems they went into the water alive. He added that reports they jumped from the George Washington Bridge were unfounded.

Timeline Develops

The family of the sisters told authorities they hadn't seen them since Nov. 30, 2017. The sisters were located that December and went to the shelter facility, Shea said.

They still had no contact with their family, and Shea said the sisters alleged abuse involving their mother, father and brother. No abuse has been corroborated, Shea said, without elaborating.

From December 2017 to August 2018 there was no real contact with the family, Shea said. Then the sisters vanished from the facility; they apparently were last seen together on Aug. 24.

They were reported missing on Sept. 12. They were already in New York City by that time, Shea said, adding they made stops in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia and took various modes of transit to New York.

The sisters arrived in the city on Sept. 1.

Shea said detectives are still sifting through copious amounts of records to determine what happened once the sisters got to the city. What authorities do know, he said, is that credit card records show they stayed at a number of high-end hotels. Security and surveillance cameras show them in good health up to a week before their bodies were discovered.

They had a pattern of ordering meals — always two meals — Shea said, "until, at best we can surmise, the money started to run out."

The investigation is active. A reward of more than $12,000 is being offered for information in the case, Shea said. Anyone who has information is asked to call police or submit tips anonymously online.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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