A Texas father accused of fatally shooting his daughters in the back of a taxi in an “honor killing” before going on the lam for over a decade took the stand in his own defense on Monday—and claimed he “felt his life was in danger” the night of the 2008 incident.
Yaser Said, 64, has pleaded not guilty to the murders of his daughters, 17-year-old Sarah and 18-year-old Amina. Prosecutors allege that Said killed them outside of a Dallas-area hotel after learning they had begun dating and after they had escaped from their house out of fear. Said’s lawyers have argued throughout the trial the crime was only pinned on him because he is Muslim.
Said evaded authorities for 12 years, landing him on the FBI’s Most Wanted List before he was found in 2020 hiding in Justin, Texas, about 40 minutes away from the crime scene. Witnesses and former investigators testified in court that during his time on the lam, Said took extreme measures to hide, including enlisting the help of his son and brother, and sleeping in a hidden room in the back of a converted garage.
Speaking through a translator in Arabic as his defense team’s only witness, Said explained that on the night of the New Year’s Day deaths, he planned to take his daughters to dinner to “solve the problem” about their decision to leave home before graduating high school.
But he testified that, as he started driving on the highway, he “felt like someone was following me.” He said he believed that one or more cars were tailing the taxi he was driving with his two daughters.
Out of fear, Said told jurors, he told his daughters he would leave them in the taxi at an Irving transit center while he went to a bus station because he believed whoever was following them was targeting him.
“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, adding that he believed that the cameras at the transit centers would keep his daughters safe. “It was a scary situation.”
The father-of-three said his daughters were “certainly” alive when he left them in the cab on Riverside Drive.
“This was a very stupid decision that I made,” he said of his supposed plan to evade whoever was following him.
He said he then walked to a Waffle House, where he learned that “something had happened to somebody”—before eventually learning that his daughters had been murdered. His defense lawyers asserted Said’s Fifth Amendment right to refrain from answering any questions about his life after his daughters’ deaths, stating he is facing separate federal charges for allegedly fleeing prosecution.
He did, however, stress at one point that while he knew he was wanted by the FBI, he did not turn himself in because he thought he would not get a fair trial and that the coverage of his case was too harsh.
“I don’t think in the history of America there was a case that had the coverage that my case had,” he claimed.
Prosecutors and witnesses spent three days detailing the power and fear Said wielded in his family, including choosing who they would communicate with. Patricia Owens, his ex-wife, even told jurors that her daughters had accused him of sexual assault in 1998—and they fled to another part of the state.
Owens, who described Said as “the devil” and called him “abusive,” said her daughters recanted the allegations against her ex-husband out of fear.
“He wanted me to go back to him and if I didn’t go back to him, he threatened to kill me and my family,” Owens said on the stand last week, adding that Said said he’d kill her after she filed a police report about the sexual assault allegations. “He said nothing would happen to him.”
Denying his ex-wife’s accusations that he was abusive, Said told jurors that “women are protected more than men in America” and insisted that he never threatened to kill Owens. However, he admitted that Owens left several times, but said she always returned and police were never called against him.
“No American woman would fear calling the police if she was abused,” Said claimed.
However, prosecutors allege that, years later, Said had grown “angrier” after feeling he had lost his grip on his wife and daughters, who had started dating non-Muslim men. It wasn’t until December 2007, however, after Said had allegedly put a gun to Amina’s head and threatened to kill her, that prosecutors say the teenagers and their mother began to hatch their plan to escape shortly before Christmas.
On Christmas Day, Owens said she, her daughters, and their boyfriends, escaped to Oklahoma. The next day, however, Said reported them missing to the Lewisville Police Department—prompting Amina and Sarah to eventually return to the Dallas area on New Year’s Eve. Authorities have not revealed where the teenagers’ brother, Islam Said, was at the time.
Owens testified she was “to stay home” while her husband drove her daughters to get dinner and talk. During cross-examination, Said admitted that he never called 911 that night, even though he believed he was being followed.
Authorities believe that the daughters were shot before 7:30 p.m. near the Omni Hotel. Around that time, Sarah Said called 911 twice, stressing she was “dying” after her father shot her. A medical examiner testified last week that Amina suffered two gunshot wounds and her sister was shot nine times.
“She’s asking for help and she names her killer, her father, Yaser Said,” prosecutor Lauren Black said about the 911 call, which was played for jurors last week.
When asked on Monday by one of his lawyers if he killed his daughters, Said said, “For sure did not.”
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