Inside FBI’s Decade Hunt to Find ‘Most Wanted’ Man Accused of Killing His Daughters

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It wasn’t long before authorities suspected that Yaser Said was involved in the murder of his two teenage daughters, whose bullet-ridden bodies were found in an orange Jet Taxi cab on New Year’s Day in 2008.

Said, who was the last person seen with 17-year-old Sarah and 18-year-old Amina, was nowhere near the taxi when it was found outside a hotel near Dallas — despite a 911 call from one of the daughters who insisted that he “shot” them. When officials finally arrived at Said’s home, authorities were surprised to learn that the father of three had vanished into thin air. The next day, Said was charged with two counts of capital murder in what prosecutors have described as an “honour killing.”

But former investigators and witnesses who testified on behalf of the prosecution in Said’s trial in Dallas County Court explained how it took a 12-year manhunt before the suspect was actually apprehended. In the meantime, Said is said to have taken extreme measures to evade the police while he was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, including enlisting the help of his son and brother and jumping off an apartment patio after being spotted by a maintenance worker. .

He was finally found in 2020, hiding in a house in Justin, Texas, about 40 minutes from the grisly crime scene. According to authorities, the house had a hidden room in the back of a converted garage with a cot.

“We didn’t know where he was,” former Irving detective Joe Hennig told the jury on Friday, stating that authorities had found new evidence that he had left the country. “We don’t know where he was those 12 years.”

Said, 64, pleaded not guilty to the murder charge for the crime his lawyers claimed was only being put on him because he is Muslim. Prosecutors, however, allege that Said was “obsessed with possessions and control” and killed his daughters after learning that the teens had boyfriends and tried to run away.

In the past three days in court, prosecutors and witnesses detailed the power, control and fear he wielded, including choosing where the family would live and who they would communicate with.

“He checked what they did, who they spoke to, who they could be friends with, whether they could date — and who they could — and he checked everything in his household,” prosecutor Lauren Black said during opening statements on Tuesday.

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In the weeks leading up to the murders, Said had reportedly grown “boosted” after feeling he had lost this power over his wife and daughters, who had dated non-Muslim men and planned to attend college. However, it wasn’t until December 2007, when prosecutors alleged that Said put a gun to Amina’s head and threatened to kill her, that the teens and their mother began devising their plan to escape shortly before Christmas.

As the patio doors and shrubbery were left on the ground, investigators thought someone was climbing “over the balcony.”

Said’s ex-wife, Patricia Owens, told jurors Friday that she and her daughters escaped to Oklahoma on Christmas Day. The next day, however, Said reported them missing to the Lewisville Police Department and asked Amina and Sarah to eventually return to the Dallas area on New Year’s Eve. Authorities have not disclosed where the teen’s brother, Islam Said, was at the time.

Owens testified that she would “stay at home” while her husband drove her daughters around to get food and talk. Authorities believe the daughters were shot dead near the Omni Hotel before 7.30pm. Around that time, Sarah Said called 911 twice, insisting she was “dying” after her father shot her.

“She’s asking for help and she’s calling her killer, her father, Yaser Said,” Black said of Sarah’s 911 call played in front of jurors this week.

Authorities later learned that the taxi the girls found was not actually Said’s lease car, but one he had borrowed from a fellow driver, Jihad Tafal. Tafal told jurors on Thursday that Said had to borrow his car a few days before Christmas, citing his disdain for the owner of the car he usually leased. Former Irving police detective John Schingle told jurors that while the orange cab usually had a GPS, it was remarkably turned off on New Year’s Eve.

“There are almost 24 hours where we don’t know where that taxi went,” Schingle added.

Randall Johnson, who was Irving’s lead police detective in the case until mid-2008, testified in court on Thursday that Owens had given authorities a box of ammunition when they arrived at Said’s home after the murders. Among the bullets, he said, were 9-millimeter Lugers that matched bullet casings removed from the cabin.

Hennig also emphasized to the judges on Friday that there were no fingerprints in the cabin, but that they quickly learned that Said was in the car before the murders. Investigators said Said was previously known to carry a gun while driving his taxi.

During the cross-examination, Said’s lawyers argued that the police deliberately ignored the girls’ boyfriends as suspects because it didn’t fit their “story” that their father was responsible. Said’s lawyer also insisted on the idea that both boyfriends were not tested for gun residue.

“Initially we looked at the two boyfriends and then we focused on the defendant,” Johnson said.

But all former investigators admitted that the case quickly snowballed from just a murder investigation to a manhunt. Authorities now know that Said at the time enlisted the help of his son, Islam, and his brother, Yassein, to stay hidden.

In 2014, authorities added Said to the FBI’s list of 10 most wanted fugitives. Three years later, authorities nearly caught Said in a North Texas apartment building after a maintenance worker spotted him. Jorge Camacho, who had worked for Canyon Apartments in Bedford in 2017, testified in Spanish through a translator that he had received a request to repair a leak in one of the units.

When he knocked on the door and tried to open the door of the unit leased to Islam Said, the deadbolt was still on the door.

Camacho pushed the door as wide as he could and said he yelled into the apartment that it was an “emergency” and let him in. Finally he said Said opened the door.

“He had facial hair and he had a hat. He had his face down,” Camacho said, adding that he finally saw his face before he left.

Camacho said that while returning the keys, he ran into his manager, who handed him the FBI’s most wanted poster and asked if he’d seen Said. The maintenance worker confirmed that he had seen Said in the apartment just before.

The apartment manager quickly called the FBI, who arrived at the building and interviewed Camacho. Speaking to investigators, Camacho said he looked up at the apartment and saw “the blinds open and close.” Finally, the police tried to question Islam Said in the complex, but he refused to let them in to search the apartment.

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According to a charge against Said’s son, he then called one of his uncles and said, “We have a big problem.” Said’s son and brother have since been sentenced to 10 years in prison for helping him hide.

Hours later, authorities received a search warrant for the apartment, only to find an empty unit and an open sliding glass door. Irving Police Department Detective David Tull testified Friday that when authorities entered the building, they found paperwork belonging to Said’s brother and son — and fingerprinted them. A toothbrush and luggage were also found.

Tull added that the way the patio doors and the bushes were left on the ground, researchers believed someone climbed “over the balcony.”

Less than two weeks after the apartment was searched, on August 26, 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol saw Islam Said and another person attempting to cross the border into Canada. The Islam charge said the driver said the couple was on a “crazy road trip”. It is not immediately known whether Islam and the other person were arrested or crossed the border.

It would be three more years before authorities caught up with the Saids again, this time in Justin, Texas. Special Agent Daniel Gimenez said investigators began 24-hour surveillance of the house purchased under the name of Yassein’s daughter.

“This was a single-family home in a rural area in Justin with an attached garage,” Gimenez said. “It was an isolated neighborhood.”

Gimenez testified that Islam and Yassein regularly drove to the house with shopping bags and would eventually leave hours later with “garbage bags” placed in their car. “We wanted to know where the garbage bags went,” the special agent added.

On August 17, 2020, Said’s brother and son left the house and officers saw what appeared to be a “shadow” of another person.

Days later, FBI agents received a search warrant and entered the house. Immediately after authorities announced their presence at Justin’s home, Gimenez said Said “came out and surrendered and lay down on the floor.”

Said “was handcuffed and taken into custody safely without incident,” the special agent added. After his arrest, investigators entered the home and found a “garage door that had been converted from a typical garage door to French doors.” In the back wall was a “space built to enclose a room” with plywood.

“In the room was a cot and a carpet,” he added.

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