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One of the FBI’s former top 10 most-wanted suspects, who is facing a trial 12 years after allegedly carrying out “honor killings” against his two daughters in Texas, took the stand on Monday and told the court, “I did not kill my daughters.”
Yaser Said, 65, testified with the help of a translator on Monday inside a Dallas courtroom, where the defense rested later in the day. Said is charged with capital murder, accused of killing 18-year-old Amina Said and 17-year-old Sarah Said on New Year’s Day in 2008. Yaser Said has entered a not guilty plea.
Said, who had worked as a taxi driver, faces an automatic life sentence if convicted.
The sisters were found shot to death in a taxi parked near a hotel in the Dallas suburb of Irving.
His testimony comes days after jurors heard a 911 call Sarah Said made from a cellphone, telling the operator that her father shot her and she was dying.
“Help,” said a crying voice on the 911 recording, later determined by police to be that of Sarah Said. “I’m dying. Oh my God. Stop it.”
Said testified for less than two hours on Monday, when prosecutors tried to poke holes in his claims.
During cross-examination, prosecutors asked him if, as a taxi driver, he could understand and speak English. Through a translator, he answered yes.
Prosecutors also asked him why he would leave his daughters in his car if he feared he was being followed, as he had claimed. They also asked why he left his gun in his car if he was “scared.”
Said responded that he believed the person following them was after him and not his daughters.
During his cross-examination, Said also testified that women in America are more protected than men; that women do not have the fear of calling police on a man; and that his ex-wife, Patricia Owens, who testified last week, lied when she said that he had threatened to kill her.
A jury is expected to hear closing arguments on Tuesday, and panelists will be sequestered for the duration of deliberations.
Owens testified Thursday that her ex-husband was abusive and controlling during their marriage. And when Owens was asked to identify her ex-husband in court, she pointed at Said and said, “That devil there.”
A former police detective testified Thursday that the taxi in which the girls had been found had been lent to Yaser Said.
A week before the sisters were killed, they and their mother left their home in the Dallas suburb of Lewisville and went to Oklahoma to get away from Said. Both sisters’ boyfriends also joined the three.
Prosecutor Lauren Black said in opening statements that the sisters had become “very scared for their lives,” and the decision to leave was made after Said “put a gun to Amina’s head and threatened to kill her,” the prosecutor said.
Owens, who spoke softly and often hesitantly on the stand, testified that Said eventually convinced her to return to Texas. “I didn’t think anything would happen,” she testified.
Black said during opening statements that Said was “obsessed with possession and control.” Owens testified that when she married Said, she was 15 and he was 29. The evening the girls were killed, Said wanted to take just the two sisters to a restaurant.
A police report from after the girls’ death described that a family member told investigators that the suspect threatened “bodily harm″ against Sarah for going on a date with a non-Muslim. Owens fled with her daughters in the week before their deaths because she was in “great fear for her life.” Gail Gattrell, the sisters’ great-aunt, has called the deaths an “honor killing,” in which a woman is murdered by a relative to protect her family’s honor.
In a letter written to the judge overseeing the case, Said said he was not happy with his kids’ “dating activity” but denied killing his daughters. Defense attorney Joseph Patton said in opening statements that the evidence would not support a conviction and that police were too quick to focus on Said.
In a Dec. 21, 2007, email that was brought into evidence, Amina Said told one of her teachers that she and her sister planned to run away. She wrote that she and her sister didn’t want to live by the culture of their father, who was born in Egypt, nor did they want arranged marriages, as he planned. Her father, she wrote, had “made our lives a nightmare.”
“He will, without any drama nor doubt, kill us,” the email read.
Yaser Said, who had been sought on a capital murder warrant since the slayings, was placed on the FBI’s most-wanted list. He was finally arrested in August 2020 in Justin, about 35 miles northwest of Dallas. His son, Islam Said, and his brother, Yassim Said, were subsequently convicted of helping him evade arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.