What to Know
- Yaser Abdel Said, 65, was accused of killing his teenage daughters in 2008 in what prosecutors have called an "honor killing."
- Said spent six years on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List before he was arrested in August 2020.
- The death penalty was not an option in this case. Said will be automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A jury delivered a guilty verdict Tuesday in the capital murder trial of a Texas man accused of fatally shooting his two teenage daughters in a taxi in 2008.
Yaser Abdel Said, 65, evaded arrest for over 12 years following the slayings of his daughters, 18-year-old Amina Said and 17-year-old Sarah Said. Prosecutors did not pursue the death penalty, meaning Yaser Said receives an automatic life sentence.
After the verdict, Patricia Owens, Said's ex-wife and mother of the victims spoke directly to him in a victim impact statement.
“You deserve a lot more than what the judge gave to you. You deserve to die,” Owens said. “At this time, you are nothing. You are a prisoner and a murderer and the devil.”
The mother’s sister and victim's aunt, Connie Moggio, told 65-year-old Said she hopes the remainder of his years in prison are filled with his worst nightmares.
Chief Dallas County Public Defender Brad Lollar said the conviction will be appealed. He said the investigation of the crime was weak and the real killer was not identified.
“This is a case where there are no witnesses," Lollar said. "There’s no forensic science to it."
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot praised investigators for their perseverance in tracking Said.
“We’re here to offer condolences, continued condolence to this family, but we’re also here to see that justice is done which it was,” Creuzot said.
During closing arguments Tuesday, the prosecution recapped the deaths of the two girls and the evidence against Said.
Prosecutor Lauren Black has said Said was “obsessed with possession and control.”
The sisters were found shot to death in a taxi parked near a hotel in Irving on New Year’s Day in 2008. Jurors heard a 911 call Sarah Said made by cellphone, telling the operator that her father had shot her and that she was dying.
Sarah Said was shot nine times and Amina Said was shot twice.
A week before they were killed, the girls and their mother fled their home in Lewisville and went to Oklahoma to escape Said. The sisters’ boyfriends also joined them.
The prosecutor said the sisters had become “very scared for their lives,” and decided to leave after their father “put a gun to Amina’s head and threatened to kill her.”
The mother, Patricia Owens, who is divorced from Said, testified that he convinced her to return to Texas.
“I didn’t think anything would happen,” she testified.
In a letter written to the judge, Said wrote that he was not happy with his daughters’ “dating activity” but he denied killing them.
On Monday, Said told jurors that he did not kill his daughters. He said he fled the taxi he was driving that evening because he thought they were being followed and someone wanted to kill him. He said he did not turn himself in to authorities because he feared he would not get a fair trial.
In a Dec. 21, 2007, email that was brought into evidence, Amina Said told a teacher that she and her sister planned to run away. She said they didn’t want to live by the culture of their father, who was born in Egypt, nor did they want arranged marriages, as he planned. Her father, she said, had “made our lives a nightmare.”
“He will, without any drama nor doubt, kill us,” the email read.
After the slayings, Said was sought on a capital murder warrant and was placed on the FBI’s most-wanted list. He was finally arrested in August 2020 in Justin. His son, Islam Said, and his brother, Yassim Said, were subsequently convicted of helping him evade arrest.
YASER SAID TAKES THE WITNESS STAND, DENIES ACCUSATIONS
Speaking through an interpreter in his native Arabic, Said testified someone else is responsible for the crime, but investigators never found that person because they only pursued him.
"If the FBI did their work, they would know, but they were looking for Yaser Said and they did not do what they have to do," he said.
Defense lawyers unsuccessfully tried to limit the scope of cross-examination. The judge warned Said that prosecutors would be allowed to raise any issue from the trial with him but he said he wanted to talk anyway.
The father told the courtroom that he only wanted to take his two daughters to dinner on New Year's Day 2008 but on the road in his taxi, he said he saw someone following them.
He said he assumed that he was the target and so he claimed he got out of the car at an Irving Transit Center where he assumed the girls would be safe.
"I told them the car is yours. You do whatever you want since you know how to drive. I left the car for them," he said.
Later, Said added he heard about an accident and learned that his girls had been murdered. He said he regrets leaving them alone and denied killing them.
A prosecutor picked at Said's story and asked why he was on the run for 12 years if he was not guilty despite seeing media reports that he was wanted.
"Because I believed behind this coverage there was a secret agenda. And I feel the media was against me in a certain direction, that I would not get a fair trial," Said said.
The defense rested after the defendant's testimony.
JURY SHOWN BULLET-RIDDLED CLOSING, FORENSIC PHOTOS ON DAY 4 of SAID TRIAL
On Friday, graphic crime scene evidence was shown to the jury, including bullet-riddled clothing worn by the girls on the night of the murders.
The cause of death for both victims was listed as multiple gunshot wounds and homicide as the manner of death.
Said refused to look up as two medical examiners who conducted the victims’ autopsies took the stand and described photographs of each victim’s examination displayed in the courtroom. Each girl, they said, had been shot multiple times.
Amina suffered two gunshot wounds, including a fatal wound to the chest. The medical examiner found 1,500 milliliters of blood in Amina’s right chest cavity, the equivalent of three water bottles.
Sarah suffered nine gunshot wounds, mostly to her abdomen, according to the medical examiner. Her chilling 911 call was played before the jury on Wednesday where she was heard saying her father shot her and that she was dying.
FBI AGENT RECALLS HUNTING 'MOST WANTED' MAN
Gimenez detailed the local and global search for Said who was on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitive list before his 2020 arrest at a home in Justin.
FBI agent Daniel Gimenez, who led the federal government’s effort to track down Said, took the stand Friday afternoon.
“Upon the SWAT team’s notice and knock announced, the defendant came out and surrendered,” said Gimenez. “We took him into custody without incident.”
WAS IT AN HONOR KILLING?
Whether the girls were victims of an honor killing for allegedly bringing dishonor to their family has been widely speculated by loved ones and media since their murder in 2008.
On Friday, that phrase took center stage.
"I do not have first-hand knowledge of what an honor killing is. There's no such thing as an honor killing, you kill somebody there's no honor to it. It's a murder," Irving Police Detective Joe Henning said.
A film made about the murders, "The Price of Honor," alleges the girls were killed by their father as an "honor killing," a cultural practice where someone is killed after bringing shame on their family. The film furthers speculation the girls' father objected to his daughters living an "American lifestyle."
Dr. Brasheer Ahmed, with the Muslim Community Center in North Richland Hills, told NBC 5 in 2020, following Said's arrest, that murder was against Islamic principal.
"Under no way, this is honor killing. This is just killing. This is murder. And this is not acceptable," Ahmed said.
TEEN'S MOTHER TESTIFIES ON DAY 3 OF YASER SAID'S TRIAL
On Thursday, the mother of Amina and Sarah Said took the stand. Patrica Owens, Yaser Said's ex-wife, testified before the jury Thursday morning and said why she fled her home with her daughters only to return days before they were killed.
Owens, who visibly had trouble on the stand and has been diagnosed with PTSD and is on medication, said she met Said when she was 14 and he was 29. She said she married him at the age of 15, with the permission of her parents after dating for three weeks and had three children with him over the next three years.
She said she and her two daughters returned to her husband because he was abusive and she was scared of getting hurt if they didn't.
She said she urged Amina to return home on the day of the murders even though the teen said she feared for her life. Owens said on the day her daughter returned Yaser appeared happy and he kissed her on the forehead and shed a tear.
When asked to identify her ex-husband in court, Owens raised her arm, pointed at Said and said, “That devil there.” She told jurors she and her husband had not spoken since the night their daughters were killed.
Prosecutors asked Owens if she had any idea what might have happened to her daughters when they left to eat with their father and she said, “Part of me did. Part of me didn’t" before saying, "I'm sorry."
Owens said her ex-husband was abusive and controlling and would look over the girls' phone records and would call numbers to see if they belonged to a boy or a girl. Prosecutors said Said was angry the girls were dating out of their culture and that they had recently ran away to be with their boyfriends.
Prosecutors claim Said's daughters made an outcry that he'd sexually abused them and had touched them inappropriately.
Said's defense argued Owens' story had changed so much over the years that she was close to becoming a suspect herself and also claimed police were fixated on blaming a Muslim man for the killings instead of looking at other potential suspects. The defense is also expected to try to discredit Sarah's chilling 911 call, played before the jury on Wednesday, where she said her father shot her.
The girls' bodies were found in their father's taxi cab outside the Omni hotel in Irving, both of them had been shot multiple times. Said disappeared and had not been seen for 12 years until his arrest in Justin by the FBI in August 2020.
Said entered a not guilty plea Tuesday and faces an automatic life sentence if convicted.
911 CALL TAKES CENTER STAGE DURING DAY 2 OF YASER SAID TRIAL
Silence filled Dallas County District Court 7 Wednesday as prosecutors prepared to present the chilling 911 call made by a dying Sarah Said on New Year 2008.
“My dad shot me! I’m dying! I’m dying,” yelled a frantic woman identified as Sarah.
Yaser Said sat emotionless, holding a finger to his ear to listen to the disturbing audio.
The potential key piece of evidence was admitted on day two of testimony, despite objections by the defense who previously cautioned jurors their expert will later testify that the 17-year-old victim may have been ‘hallucinating’ after being shot nine times when she named her father as her shooter.
Jurors also saw the orange taxi cab where she and her 18-year-old sister, Amina, were found shot to death.
Hotel employee Nathan Watson testified about the moment a taxi cab driver reported seeing two injured people in the cab lane of the hotel.
“I could see a young lady who had her eyes fixed open and there was stuff coming out of her nose,” said Watson.
Police allege these were ‘honor killings’ committed by an abusive, controlling and possessive father who was angry his daughters dated outside their culture and had left home recently.
Said’s three public defenders argue this was a botched police investigation fixated on a Muslim man in a post-9/11 world full of Islamophobia.
Day two of testimony ended with a former crime scene investigator who wheeled in a cart full of evidence including the bullet-riddled cab seats, shell casings and projectiles found throughout the car and photographs showing a shell casing found on Amina’s shoulder.
Former Irving police officer Steven Hazard testified he believed the girls were not shot at the location they were found.
He also said evidence on Sarah’s body indicated she was shot at very close range.
OPENING STATEMENTS ON DAY 1 OF YASER SAID CAPITAL MURDER TRIAL
During opening statements Tuesday morning, prosecutor Lauren Black said Said was "obsessed with possession and control."
About a week before the sisters were killed, they and their mother fled their home in Lewisville to Oklahoma to get away from their dad, who worked as a taxi driver, Black said. The sisters had become "very scared for their lives," and the decision to leave was made after Said "put a gun to Amina's head and threatened to kill her," the prosecutor said.
But, Black said, in another act of "control" and "manipulation" by Said, he told them he had changed and convinced them to return home. The evening the sisters were shot, their father wanted to take just the two of them to a restaurant, she said.
The girls' aunt, Connie Moggio, broke down on the stand as she identified autopsy photos of her nieces. She told jurors about a conversation she had with a frantic Amina the day of the murders. "She didn't want to go back home, she would rather be dead than ever go back there," Moggio testified.
In a letter written to the judge overseeing the case, Said said he was not happy with his kids' "dating activity" but denied killing his daughters. Defense attorney Joseph Patton said in opening statements that the evidence would not support a conviction, that police were too quick to focus on Said, who was born in Egypt, and suggested that anti-Muslim sentiment played into that focus.
"It is wrong for the government to generalize an entire culture, criminalize an entire culture, to fit their narrative, and to fit their objective. The state wants to convict Yaser for being Muslim in 2008," said Patton.
His defense said no one will testify they saw Said at the crime scene, adding police should have investigated the girls' mother or Amina's boyfriend. "They were the last people to see Amina and Sarah alive," he said.
Amina's boyfriend testified he and his father indeed saw Said and both girls in his cab shortly before the shooting and that they briefly followed them out of concern. "Her look was in fear, she didn't look like she wanted to be there," said Amina's boyfriend Edgar Ruiz.
The girls, who were both students at Lewisville High School, were reportedly shot multiple times by their father. Their bodies were later discovered inside his cab, parked outside of an Omni hotel.
Before she died, Sarah was able to call 911 and told the operator, "Help, my dad shot me! I'm dying, I'm dying!"
Black said Sarah Said was shot nine times and Amina Said was shot twice.
In moments of extreme trauma, like being shot multiple times, people can have hallucinations, Patton said.
Black said the sisters, both high school students in Lewisville, dreamed of becoming doctors, and that Yaser Said grew "angrier" as they grew up and became more educated and independent.
"When they had more independence, that was less control for him," Black said.
Sarah's boyfriend testified about why she kept their relationship a secret. "Something would happen to me or something would happen to her," Erik Panameno told jurors.
Prosecutors presented an email Amina reportedly sent her Lewisville teacher days before her death, confiding that her father was arranging her marriage so she and her sister were going to run away. "He will kill us," Amina wrote.
More than 50 people were called to testify, including the girls' mother as well as local and federal investigators and experts on Muslim culture.
The judge also allowed prosecutors to tell jurors about allegations that Said sexually abused his own daughters, who later recanted.
A film made about the murders, "The Price of Honor," alleged the girls were killed by their father as an "honor killing," a cultural practice where someone is killed after bringing shame on their family. The film furthers speculation the girls' father objected to his daughters living an "American lifestyle."
Yaser Said, who had been sought on a capital murder warrant since the slayings, was placed on the FBI's most-wanted list. In August 2020 Said was arrested in Justin and two relatives were arrested in Euless. The relatives were identified by the Dallas FBI as Said's brother Yassein and his son Islam.
Both men were charged with harboring a known fugitive and are now serving time in federal prison.