Missing Persons

Saudi Sisters Who Mysteriously Washed Ashore In NYC Were Alive When They Went Into The Water, Police Say

Rotana and Tala Farea were found duct-taped together on the banks of the Hudson River in New York City, but police still don't know what led to their deaths. 

Two sisters from Saudi Arabia whose bodies were found duct-taped together when they mysteriously washed up on a Hudson River waterfront last week were alive when they went into the water, New York City police said.

Rotana Farea, 22, and Tala Farea, 16, were discovered Oct. 24 on rocks at the edge of the Hudson River in Manhattan, about 225 miles from Fairfax, Virginia, where they lived and were reported missing in August.

At a press briefing held on Wednesday, police said the medical examiner was able to determine that the Farea sisters were alive before they entered the water. However, anything more than that has not yet been determined.

"At this point in time it has still has not been determined a homicide," NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said, adding that he and his department are on a mission to find out what happened.

The sisters' bodies were taped together and facing each other, but had no obvious signs of trauma, police said. They were both fully clothed.

Their mother told detectives she received a call from an official at the Saudi Arabian Embassy the day before the bodies were discovered, ordering the family to leave the U.S. because her daughters had applied for political asylum, the NYPD said Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia's Consulate General in New York said in a statement that it had "appointed an attorney to follow the case closely."

The consulate also said embassy officials in Washington had contacted the family and "extended its support and aid in this trying time." It said the sisters were students "accompanying their brother in Washington."

New York City police sent a detective to Virginia to learn more about the sisters. Shea said they were particularly interested in finding out what happened since they were reported missing and what led them to New York City.

"We are looking at all clues in their past life," Shea said.

The medical examiner's office was investigating the cause of death. The lack of obvious trauma appeared to rule out a theory they jumped into the river from the George Washington Bridge.

Tala and Rotana moved to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia with their mother in 2015, settling in Fairfax, a suburb of Washington D.C., police said.

Rotana was enrolled at George Mason University, but left in the spring. A George Mason spokesman called the news of her death "tragic," and said the university was cooperating with police.

Police said the sisters left their family home and were placed in a shelter after an earlier disappearance in December 2017.

They were reported missing again Aug. 24.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[Photo: Photo: New York City Police Department]

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