By Bryn Fawn
Family is there to support you in all your endeavors and love you unconditionally. Your parents nurture you and watch you grow into your own self. Some parents may go to extreme lengths to flex their authority.
Yaser Said came to the United States on a student visa and met Patricia Owens when she was 14 and he was 29. Said married Owens a year later and had three children, a son and two daughters, Amina and Sarah.
Said held traditional values, especially for his daughters. He disliked their love for pop culture and following fashion trends. He forbade Amina and Sarah from having boyfriends and often took their phone away. Said had, in fact, arranged a marriage for Amina.
Amina and Sarah reported their father’s abuse. They made reports of his violent nature and his history of sexual assault. Owens also made reports of Said’s abuse and admitted she was aware of the harm Said was causing his daughters. Under oath, Owens testified in court about her ex-husband’s abuse and called him a “devil.”
Amina and Sarah had boyfriends in secret, and Owens testified she knew Said would kill her daughters if he ever discovered the truth. Amina and Sarah hid a flip phone in their bedroom which they would use to contact their partners and try to have some semblance of a normal teenage life.
The main reason Said disapproved of his daughter’s boyfriends was the simple fact that they were not from Middle East descent. Said wanted suitors who followed Islam and his traditional values.
Said controlled every aspect of his daughter’s lives. Their room was barren. He controlled whom they spoke with, what clothes they wore and whom they could be friends with. This pushed Amina and Sarah to rebel in secret, trying more revealing clothing or makeup without their father’s knowledge.
“We don’t want police involved until we are totally ready,” Amina wrote in an email to her history teacher. “I am so scared right now. It’s crazy. We’re not allowed to date, and my dad is arranging my marriage. My dad said I cannot put it off anymore, and I have to get married this year.”
On Dec. 25, 2007, Amina, Sarah and Owens fled with the girls’ boyfriends, Edgar Ruiz and Erik Panameno, from Texas to Oklahoma. Said quickly reported his family missing, but Owens reported to local police that she and her daughters were alive and well.
Despite escaping his abuse, the girls agreed to see Said again in person after his insistence. Owens believed her daughters would be safe, and it is speculated Sarah wanted to maintain contact with her father. The girls and their mother returned to visit Said in Texas on New Year’s Eve.
Ruiz testified in court that he knew Amina was going to die after leaving his home with Said.
The sisters would never be seen alive again. Said was a taxi driver and claimed he was going to take the girls out for a meal. Instead, he shot the sisters in the back of his taxi. Despite suffering nine bullet wounds, Sarah managed to call 911.
The 911 call lasted one minute.
“Help,” Sarah said in her final moments to the dispatcher. “My dad shot me. I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m dying.”
The bodies were later discovered in the back of his taxi cab. Said would then become a fugitive on the run, joining the list of FBI’s Most Wanted. Said evaded capture until Aug. 26, 2020.
Said denies killing his daughters, stating in court, “Definitely not, I did not kill my daughters.”
Said’s defense claimed he believed he was being hunted down, and so left his daughters inside his taxi for their safety. However, due to the damning 911 call where Sarah implicates her father, the jury did not believe the defense.
It was documented he shifted in his seat as his daughter’s final words played for the court to hear. Yet, Said was mostly emotionless for the proceedings.
Said did not face the death penalty. Instead, he sits in the William G. McConnell Unit in Bee County, Texas, sentenced to life without the possibility for parole.