A man accused of fatally shooting his teenage daughters in Irving in 2008 hid inside a secret room of his family’s house in Justin to elude arrest, according to FBI agents’ testimony Monday.
Yaser Said is charged with capital murder in the deaths of his daughters, 17-year-old Sarah and 18-year-old Amina Said. According to prosecutors, Yaser Said shot Sarah shot nine times and shot Amina twice inside a taxi near an Irving hotel on the night of Jan. 1, 2008. After the shooting, Said was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, but eluded arrest for 12 years, authorities said.
Some family members testified the girls were victims of “honor killings” because their father thought they had brought shame to the family. The girls were dating people who were not Muslim, and the girls’ mother, Patricia Owens, testified last week that Yaser Said had threatened the girls.
Monday marked the fifth day of the trial, which is being held in Criminal District Court No. 7 in Dallas. State prosecutors rested their case in the trial at about 11 a.m. Monday.
Said was set is expected to testify in his defense Monday afternoon.
You can watch the trial live here:
The FBI had previously been tipped off about Said’s whereabouts in 2017, but he disappeared again until August 2020, according to FBI testimony. The FBI knew Said had family members who lived in North Texas in cities that included Euless, Bedford, Haltom City and Southlake, an FBI agent testified Friday. Financial records tipped authorities off that the Said family had a home in Justin.
The FBI started surveillance of the Said family and tracked Said’s son and one of his brothers to a house in Justin that the Said family was leasing, FBI agent Randall White testified Monday. One night, FBI investigators saw the shadow of a figure walk across the house. Authorities also picked up a trash bag that Said’s family members had dumped in Southlake, as if trying to hide its contents, White said. When authorities opened the bag, they found food, cigarette butts and other trash.
On Aug. 26, 2020, a SWAT team set up around the house and set flash bangs off in the back yard to dissuade Said from escaping that way. Said surrendered to the SWAT team, and was arrested.
When agents searched the home, they found bags of concrete and evidence of “a construction project” inside, White said. Photos of the inside and outside of the Justin home were shown to the courtroom Monday. The first set of photos showed a single-story white home. A photo of the back exterior of the house showed a covered patio, the walls of which were made up of half concrete and half white lattice.
Inside the home, investigators found a cut-out into the wall that was hidden by a plank of plywood, White said. He described this as the entrance to a “hidden room that was built into the house.” Inside the room, investigators found signs someone had been living there.
In photos shown in court, a TV, couch and personal items filled the small space. The rest of the house looked well-lived in, White said. A fridge was stocked with food and the home’s two bedrooms had suitcases filled with clothes and blanket-covered beds. Photos showed a cluttered house in a state of disarray, with broken furniture and trash scattered throughout.
Agents did not say how long they believe Said lived in the house.
Yaser Said has sent several letters to the judge in Dallas proclaiming his innocence, according to WFAA-TV.
In one letter he wrote, “I was not happy about my kids’ dating activity. But, I did not do the killings or any plan to hurt them,” WFAA reported.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. If convicted, Said will be automatically sentenced to life without parole.
Said pleaded not guilty on Tuesday on the first day of testimony in his trial.
His son and brother have been sentenced to prison for hiding him.
This week, defense attorneys have argued that Yaser Said was targeted as a suspect because he is a Muslim and that evidence indicated the investigation was botched. On Friday, Said’s defense attorney continued to raise doubts about the investigation, questioning a former Irving police detective on seeking other suspects in the killings.
Retired Irving Detective Joe Henning testified that the girls’ boyfriends, who went to Irving police shortly after the deadly shooting on Jan. 1, 2008, were not suspects, even though Yaser Said’s son told police that they needed to be interviewed.
Defense attorneys also have noted that there were no fingerprints, no weapon, and no bloody clothes or footprints found in the investigation.
On Christmas Day in 2007, the girls and their mother fled the family’s Lewisville home because they feared Yaser Said, Owens testified last week. But she and the girls returned back to their home by Jan. 1, 2008.
That night, Yaser Said told his wife he was taking the girls out to dinner, but he didn’t invite her, she said. A few hours later, the girls died from multiple gunshot wounds as they sat in Said’s taxi near the Omni Mandalay Hotel.