NYC police: No evidence of crime in death of Fairfax Co. sisters

These two undated photos provided by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) show sisters Rotana, left, and Tala Farea, whose fully clothed bodies, bound together with tape and facing each other, were discovered on on the banks of New York City's Hudson River waterfront on Oct. 24, 2018. The Farea sisters from Saudia Arabia, Rotana, 22 and Tala, 16, had been living in Fairfax, Virgina and were reported missing in August. Their mother told detectives the day before the bodies were discovered, she received a call from an official at the Saudi Arabian Embassy, ordering the family to leave the U.S. because her daughters had applied for political asylum, New York police said Tuesday Oct. 30, 2018. (NYPD via AP)

WASHINGTON – The New York City police said Friday there is no credible evidence that the two Fairfax County sisters whose bodies were found near the Hudson River last week were victims of a crime.

Dermont Shea, the chief of detectives for the NYPD, in a news conference Friday gave more details about the disappearance and discovery of 16-year-old Tala Farea and 23-year-old Rotana Farea, whose bodies were found taped together in Riverside Park Oct. 24.

That day, Shea said, a man in the park saw the sisters, who had been in the U.S. for two to three years, sitting about 30 feet apart “sitting with their heads in their hands … and they were making noises loudly that he described as praying.”

He said the sisters had arrived in New York about Sept. 1, using a credit card in Rotana Farea’s name to stay at upscale hotels, order meals and shop, until the credit card maxed out. He also said the police “have reports” that the two had requested asylum.

Shea gave a timeline of the sisters’ whereabouts in the last year:

On Nov. 30, 2017, their family saw them for the last time. In December 2017, they were found, “but they were not returned to the home,” Shea said; “they were returned to – I’ll call it a shelter-like type of facility due to some abuse allegations that came up.”

On Aug. 24 of this year, the two went missing from the facility. The family had no contact with the girls, Shea said. They spent the next week making their way to New York, Shea said, citing electronic records including at least one Uber receipt.

They arrived in New York around Sept. 1, and for weeks after that, they were seen on security cameras twice between Sept. 1 and about five or six days before they were found, and seemed to be in good condition, Shea said.

In New York, they stayed at “a number of high-end hotels” and ordered meals – “always two” – until “best we can surmise … the credit-card money started to run out,” Shea said. He added that the cards were “maxed out at the end.”

On Oct. 31, someone called the NYPD detectives and told them a story “that was haunting him – his words,” Shea said: On Oct. 24, the man told the detectives, he was in Riverside Park at about 7 a.m. to exercise, and found the sisters on a playground.

Later that day, the sisters were found in the water, duct-taped together. Shea described the taping as “not binding them together – more like keeping them together.”

No cause of death has been ruled in the case. Shea did say that it was “entirely credible” that the two were alive when they entered the water.

The  area they were found was “such a place where you would essentially walk right into the water,” he said.

Shea said the police are continuing to look for, and through, credit-card, phone and other records to try to fill out the timeline of their whereabouts. “We treat everything like a crime until we know otherwise,” he said.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.


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