Yaser Said was convicted of capital murder on Tuesday in the fatal 2008 shooting of his two teenage daughters, Amina Said, 18, and Sarah Said, 17.
After hearing closing arguments and deliberating for three hours, the Dallas County jury returned the guilty verdict. Judge Chika Anyiam sentenced Said to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in this case.
Patricia Owens, the mother of Amina and Sarah, addressed her ex-husband on the stand after the verdict. “You deserve to die now, not in jail,” Owens said. “You took my life. You took my family in one night.”
Said was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list after the murders and evaded arrest for over 12 years. Said, who had worked as a taxi driver, was arrested in August 2020 in Justin, Texas. He denied killing his daughters when he spoke on Monday, pleading not guilty,
Prosecutors say Said, who is Muslim, murdered his daughters because he was upset that the girls were dating.
“He wouldn’t even let these girls go to the movies. He wouldn’t let them date anyone,” a prosecutor said in his closing statement on Tuesday.
Local ABC News affiliate WFAA reported that police described the killings as “honour killings” – defined as the killing of a relative, particularly a daughter or wife, who is perceived as having dishonored the family in some cultures.
During the trial, prosecutors read a Dec. 21, 2007 email Amina wrote to her history teacher 10 days before she and her sister were killed, saying their father “made our life a nightmare” and that she and her sister wanted to run away.
“I’m so scared right now,” Amina wrote, according to prosecutors. “OK, well, as you know, we’re not allowed to date and my dad is planning my wedding.” My dad said I couldn’t wait any longer and had to get married this year.”
“He will, without drama or doubt, kill us,” she also wrote.
The girls, along with their mother and boyfriends, fled their Texas home to Oklahoma on Christmas Day 2007, four days after Amina sent the email. Witnesses said the girls returned to the Dallas area on New Year’s Eve when their mother said Said convinced her to go home.
The girls’ bodies were found on New Year’s Day 2008 in a taxi that prosecutors said Said was driving.
Last Wednesday, the prosecution released the 911 call Sarah allegedly made the night of her death. During the call, a woman can be heard frantically screaming that her father had shot her and that she was dying.
During her testimony in court last Thursday, Owens pointed the finger at her ex-husband, calling him “that devil.” She testified that Said was controlling and abusive throughout their relationship, adding that she and her daughters had left him many times over the years but always came back out of fear.
Owens declined to comment on the case until her ex-husband is sentenced, she told ABC News.
In a letter written to the judge handling the case, Said said that while he disapproved of his daughters’ “dating activity”, he denied killing the girls.
“I was upset because in my culture it’s something to be upset about,” Said said through a translator. He testified that he immigrated to the United States from Egypt in 1983 and later became an American citizen.
Said told jurors that on the night his daughters were killed, he was taking them out to dinner because he wanted to straighten things out and “solve the problem”.
However, Said claims he left the vehicle, fleeing into a wooded area before the girls were killed because he thought someone wanted to murder him, testifying that he spotted a stranger in a car chasing them as they drove to dinner.
Said said he did not turn himself in after the killings because he did not believe he would receive a fair trial.
The defense team says Said was targeted by law enforcement because of his Muslim faith and cultural beliefs.
“Everyone has a preference in how they discipline their children, just as they have a preference in the type of food they eat, the type of people they hang out with, the religion they want to follow,” said Baharan Muse, Said’s defense attorney, in closing arguments on Tuesday. “Discipline doesn’t mean you murdered your children. Your culture doesn’t mean you murdered your children.”
Saïd’s defense team alleged that prosecutors sought to “generalize” and “criminalize an entire culture, to fit their narrative.”
The prosecution rejected the allegation that Said had been wrongfully accused for his religious beliefs.
“If you intentionally or knowingly cause the death of another in Dallas County, we are coming to get you. Period. You will be prosecuted. Period. It has nothing to do with your race or religion,” the statement said. Attorney Lauren Black in her closing argument. .