Police say they are "unraveling" what was going on in the lives of the two young sisters from Saudi Arabia who were found bound together last week after their bodies washed up on the shore of Manhattan's Upper West Side have been identified.
The two have been identified as Tala Farea, 16, and her sister, Rotana Farea, 22, both of Fairfax, Virginia, the NYPD said. There were no obvious signs of trauma, and the NYPD said it believes the two were living before entering the river.
The two were found wearing similar fur-trimmed jackets and black leggings with their waists and feet bound together by duct tape.
The Saudi Arabian citizens and students who were accompanying their brother in Washington, D.C., the Royal Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in New York.
The consulate added it has "hired an attorney to follow the case closely."
The NYPD has conducted various interviews in Virginia, including with family members.
The sisters’ mother told detectives she had been called by a Saudi Arabian embassy official who ordered the family to leave the United States because her daughters had applied for political asylum, police said.
The sisters' mysterious deaths come after the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul earlier this month.
Rotana had been enrolled at George Mason University, but left school in the spring. Tala Farea had been missing from Fairfax since Aug. 24.
"We've made significant progress in piecing together pieces of this puzzle to find out what happened," NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said.
Shea said they were particularly interested in finding out what happened since they were reported missing. The family arrived in the U.S. from Saudi Arabia in 2015.
“We are looking at all clues,” he said.
The cause of death has not been determined as forensics reports are being compiled.
The two women were found around 2:40 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24 when New York City police responded to a 911 call for two unconscious individuals in the vicinity of 68 Street and Riverside Park, off Manhattan's Upper West Side, said an NYPD spokesperson.
When officers arrived on the scene, they discovered the two unconscious and unresponsive with no obvious signs of trauma. EMS responded and pronounced the women dead at the scene.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).
All calls are strictly confidential.
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