An Egyptian man on trial for the murders of his daughters in what prosecutors call an ‘honor killing’ took the stand in his own defense Monday and claimed that he left the girls alive in his taxi and fled because he thought he was being followed and ‘felt his life was in danger.’
Yaser Said, 64, a taxi cab driver in Texas, is accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Sarah and 18-year-old Amina on New Years Day in 2008. Their bodies were found in the back of his taxi outside a Dallas-area hotel.
Said denies that he killed his daughters and told the court on Monday that the girls were ‘certainly’ alive when he left them in the taxi that evening and fled after he apparently became fearful that he was being followed.
The cab driver explained that he and his daughters were on their way to dinner when he attempted to escape whoever he believed was following them by leaving the girls in his taxi and taking the bus in a different direction.
Yaser Said, 64, took the stand in his own defense on Monday, where he testified that he left the girls alive in his taxi and then fled because he said he ‘felt his life was in danger’
The Texas father is accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Sarah (left) and 18-year-old Amina (right) on New Years Day in 2008 after he discovered the girls were dating non-Muslim men and thought they were becoming ‘too American’
Said recalls finding out about his daughters’ murders a short time later, but for 12 years, he evaded authorities and ended up on the FBI’s Most Wanted List before he was found in 2020 in Justin, Texas, where he had been hiding allegedly with the help of his son and brother.
Prosecutors allege that Said conducted the honor killing – a practice where individuals are murdered for bringing perceived shame on their family – after he discovered the girls were dating non-Muslim men and thought they were becoming ‘too American.’
Said has pleaded not guilty in his daughter’s murders and on Monday, he took the stand in his own defense where he again denied killing them and instead testified that he believed his own life was in danger that night.
Said spoke in his native Arabic through a translator on the stand Monday as he explained his version of events on the night of New Year’s Day in 2008.
Said’s daughters reportedly decided to leave home before graduating high school, so their father planned to take them out to dinner to ‘solve the problem,’ the court heard.
But Said told the court that as he and his daughters were driving in his taxi cab on the way to the restaurant, he ‘felt like someone was following me.’ He added that one or more cars were following the cab.
Said recalled telling his daughters that he believed one of more cars were following them and that he would leave them in the taxi at an Irving transit center and he would flee separately because he believed he was being targeted.
‘I told them the car is yours, you do whatever you want since they knew how to drive, I left the car for them,’ Said testified, through his translator. He added that there were cameras at the transit centers he believed would keep his daughters safe.
Said stressed that his daughters were ‘certainly’ alive when he left them in the taxi, and said he regrets attempting to escape his alleged followers.
‘This was a very stupid decision that I made,’ he said, as he then explained how he discovered his daughters had been murdered when he walked into a Waffle house and learned that ‘something had happened to somebody.
Said admitted to knowing he was wanted by the FBI, but told the court he did not turn himself in because he did not believe h would get a fair trial because of the coverage of his case.
‘I don’t think in the history of America there was a case that had the coverage that my case had,’ he said.
Said’s daughters had decided to leave home before graduating high school, so their father planned to take them out to dinner to ‘solve the problem’
Said stressed that his daughters were ‘certainly’ alive when he left them in the taxi, and said he regrets attempting to escape his alleged followers
On Thursday, the mother of the teens told jurors that her ex-husband was abusive and controlling during their marriage.
When prosecutors asked Patricia Owens to identify ex-husband in court on Thursday, she pointed at Said and said ‘That devil there.’
During her testimony, Owens said she married Said in 1987 when she was just 15 and he was 29, giving birth to her three children within the first three years of their marriage.
In 1998, Owens filed a report with the Hill County Sheriff’s Office accusing Said of sexually abusing the two girls.
She said she fled with all three kids for months before eventually returning to the family’s home near Waco and telling the girls to recant their stories.
Owens and her daughters fled again in 2007, moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, after the girls said they feared for their lives if they lived together with their father.
She noted that Said would allegedly look over the girls’ phone records and call the numbers to see if they belonged to a boy or a girl.
Despite fleeing from him, Owens and the girls returned to the Texas home because they were afraid there would be ‘repercussions’ if they didn’t.
Owens, who spoke softly and often hesitantly on the stand, testified that Said eventually convinced her to return to Texas. ‘I didn’t think anything would happen,’ she testified.
On Monday, Said denied his ex-wife’s accusations that he was abusive and told jurors that ‘women are protected more than men in America’ and insisted that he never threatened to kill Owens.
‘No American woman would fear calling the police is she was abused,’ Said claimed.
Patricia Owens (pictured) called her ex-husband, Yaser Said, ‘that devil’ during the murder trial of their two teenage daughters on Thursday
Said’s abuse of his family extended back as far as 1998, when Owens and the girls signed an affidavit alleging he had sexually abused his daughters
In the years following the 1998 allegations, friends of the girls reported they often saw them with bruises on their bodies or witnessed Said being physically violent to his family.
The girls reportedly confided in friends that their father was obsessively controlling, and that they often feared he was surveilling them wherever they went.
In a home video recorded by Said, the girls are filmed in their bedroom while Said can be heard suggestively saying ‘Sarah sleeps with her pants? Mmm, very nice,’ and ‘Wow, look at those eyes. I got my eye on you.’
Along with Owen’s testimony, the court was also shown the bullet-riddled clothes of the victims and heard the 911 call Sarah made immediately following the shooting.
‘Help, my dad shot me! I’m dying,’ Sarah could be heard in the call she managed to make after she was shot. Investigators said Amina was killed instantly.
Police received Sarah’s frantic 911 call at about 7:30pm on that New Year’s Day. Though she accused her father in the call, she seemed to lose consciousness before dispatchers could determine her location or any other information.
Shortly after the call, the cops received another call from a man reporting two women unconscious in a car in the parking lot of the Omni Mandalay Hotel in Irving, Texas.
There, police found the girls dead inside their father’s taxi with multiple gunshot wounds each.
Said immediately became the prime suspect, and when authorities raided the family’s home the next day he was nowhere to be found.
Said spent six years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
Said spent six years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list
Said (right) pictured with his son Islam, and daughters Sarah (center, right) and Amina (left). Islam helped harbor his father after he allegedly murdered the girls
He was found hiding out in Justin, Texas – barely 30 miles from the scene of the murder – where he had been being harbored by his son, Islam, who, at the time of the killings, was aged 19, and brother Yassein, who was approximately 45.
Both relatives were arrested after the capture and are serving sentences in federal prison.
Owens said she never talked with Said again after the girls’ deaths and divorced him in 2009. She said she feared her ex-husband would turn up and kill her one day.
In 2011, while Said was still at large, Owens told The Dallas Morning News that she thought the killings could have been because of her ex-husband’s belief that the girls were shaming the family with their western ways.
‘He would say things like, ‘They’re becoming too American,” she said.
Said’s son, Islam (left) and his brother, Yassein (right). They are both serving time in federal prison for harboring Said while he was a wanted fugitive
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 and that police were too quick to focus on Said.
Black said Sarah Said was shot nine times and Amina Said was shot twice.
In a Dec. 21, 2007, email that was brought into evidence, Amina Said told one of her teachers that she and her sister planned to run away. She wrote that she and her sister 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 wrote, had ‘made our lives a nightmare.’
‘He will, without any drama nor doubt, kill us,’ the email read.
Yaser Said, who had been sought on a capital murder warrant since the slayings, was placed on the FBI’s most-wanted list.
He was finally arrested in August 2020 in Justin, about 35 miles (60 kilometers) northwest of Dallas. His son, Islam Said, and his brother, Yassim Said, were subsequently convicted of helping him evade arrest.