The mother of two girls who were allegedly killed by their father has told his murder trial that he molested the teenagers.
Texas father Yaser Said stands accused of shooting and killing his daughters in his taxi, in what has been reported as an “honour killing”.
Mother and ex-wife Patricia Owens testified in Dallas County Court in the 64-year-old’s capital murder trial on Thursday that he sexually assaulted the girls two years before the killing and then threatened to murder them if they didn’t backtrack on their police statements, according to The Daily Beast.
An emotional Ms Owens said that Sarah and Amina told her back in 1998 that their father had sexually assaulted them.
She added that after she was told of the assault, she took her daughters “to make a report” at the Hill County Sheriff’s Department. They then moved to another area, closer to Ms Owens’ sister.
Amina was around eight years old at the time, while Sarah was seven years old. Ms Owens said the charges against Mr Said were dropped after the girls withdrew their statements to police because they were scared of Mr Said.
“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,” Ms Owens said, The Daily Beast reported.
She added that Mr Said said that he wanted to murder her after the charges were filed.
“He said nothing would happen to him,” Ms Owens said, with Mr Said present in the courtroom.
Prosecutors say that Mr Said shot and killed his daughters on New Year’s Day in 2008. The “honour killing” allegedly occurred outside Dallas after he found out that they had begun dating and that he wasn’t able to “control them”.
The killings took place just days after Ms Owens had taken her kids and left Mr Said. They moved to Oklahoma but later went back to Texas when Mr Said reported them as missing.
Mr Said evaded capture for 12 years after the murders, according to prosecutors. After ending up on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, he was located in 2020 in Justin, Texas – only 40 minutes from where the alleged murder took place.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge of capital murder. His defence attorneys have claimed that he was blamed for the killings because he’s Muslim.
Prosecutors have said that he was “obsessed with possession and control”. Ms Owens said during the third day of testimony in the trial that Mr Said would insist on deciding on where they would live and who they would speak to.
In her opening statement on Tuesday, prosecutor Lauren Black said that “he controlled what they did, who they talked to, who they could be friends with, if they — and who they — could date. And he controlled everything in his household”.
Ms Owens testified that she left Mr Said multiple times but that fear forced her back. One such time was when the abuse allegations were revealed in 1998. She set off for Garland, Texas, saying that she filed a second police report after facing threats of harm from her then-husband and his brother if they didn’t come back.
She later dropped the charges filed in Garland, but Ms Owens added that she sought a protective order against Mr Said for her daughters in October 1998.
She said that she didn’t finish the process to get the order because they “went back” to Mr Said. Not long after that, the daughters withdrew their claims of abuse.
“I was scared not to go back,” Ms Owens said in court on Thursday. “Yaser was abusive.”
Prosecutors say that Mr Said had become increasingly enraged in the weeks before the killings because he felt he had lost control of both Ms Owens and the teenage girls. They had been dating men who weren’t Muslim.
Ms Owens testified that she had been aware that her daughters had boyfriends, but that the three of them had kept it quiet for fear of reprisals.
In December 2007, Mr Said put a gun to Amina’s head and threatened to kill her, prompting the mother and daughters to plan an escape before Christmas that year.
On Christmas Day, after Mr Said went to work, Ms Owens testified that they fled to Oklahoma with their clothes “in trash bags”.
He reported them missing the next day, forcing Ms Owens to call the Lewisville Police Department to say she was “alive and well” but that she was scared of Mr Said, The Daily Beast reported.
The daughters went back to the area around Dallas on New Year’s Eve, following numerous calls from Mr Said and his brother telling them to come back. Ms Owens said he left messages claiming to have changed and that he would vacate the house they wanted him to.
Ms Owens added that another factor in the return to Texas was for Amina for graduate high school and not put her college scholarship at risk.
Mr Said told Ms Owens “to stay home” while he went for a drive with the teens to talk. The authorities think that the daughters were shot and killed around 7.30pm close to the Omni Hotel.
It was at about that time that Sarah called 911 two times, saying that she was “dying” after being shot by her father.
“She’s asking for help and she names her killer, her father, Yaser Said,” Ms Black said.
A member of the defence team claimed during opening arguments that Mr Said had been targeted for being Muslim, adding that all the 911 calls reveal is that Sarah was in extreme trauma.
Lawyer Joel Patton claimed that some of Ms Owens’ allegations were untrue and that she was being led by prosecutors instead of independently answering questions.
“It is wrong for the government to generalize an entire culture, criminalize an entire culture, to fit their narrative, and to fit their objective,” Mr Patton said in court on Tuesday, according to The Daily Beast. “The state wants to convict Yaser for being Muslim in 2008.”