The Egyptian-born cab driver suspected in the 2008 "honor killing" of his two daughters in Texas because they were dating non-Muslim boys may be working at his old trade in New York, according to a private investigator who has tracked him.
Yaser Said fled his Dallas-area home after allegedly shooting daughters Amina, 18, and Sarah Said, 17, on New Year’s Day in 2008 and is now on the FBI's list of most-wanted fugitives. Although he took his Egyptian passport and $9,000 when he bolted, Bill Warner, a private detective who has worked for Said's sister-in-law, believes he never made it out of the country. With family ties to New York and a large community of his countrymen to blend into, Warner says the odds are good the suspected killer is behind the wheel of a car for hire in the Big Apple.
“It’s all he knows and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he’s there working as a taxi driver,” Warner, who has worked on and off tracking Said, told FoxNews.com. “He could blend in at a metropolis like New York.”
Said’s brother, Yassein Said, lives just north of the city in Westchester County and the FBI notes Yaser Said's ties to the area on his wanted poster, saying he "may have fled to New York or Egypt." Warner, who is based in Sarasota, Fla., believes the money Said took would not have been enough to flee to his native Egypt and set up a new life.
“He was not financially solvent,” the investigator said, “He did not own the cab he drove. He didn’t have the financial strength to leave.”
“The brothers are really tight, so it’s likely they assisted him in some way,” Warner also said, citing that a few years ago he located a post office box in Westchester County under the names of Yaser Said and his brother.
New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission, which regulates yellow cabs as well as livery cars, requires criminal background checks conducted by the state for anyone applying for a license, according to a commission spokesman. But Said could easily rent a licensed car under the table or simply use his own vehicle to pick up fares illicitly, according to Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Foundation of Taxi Drivers.
"There are 10,000 illegal drivers in New York City," Mateo said. "It's as easy as getting in your car and driving to the airport or picking up illegal street hails."
Said allegedly shot his daughters on Jan. 1, 2008, after they ran away from home a week earlier, fearing that he would kill them for dating American boys. The girls' aunt, Gail Gartrell, claimed the murders were an “honor killing,” an act practiced outside of mainstream Islam where a family member can be killed for bringing “great dishonor” to the family.
The girls’ American-born mother, Patricia “Tissie” Owens-Said, had fled with them days earlier to Gartrell’s house in Kansas, also fearing her husband's wrath. The three were planning to move to Tulsa, but Owens-Said convinced them to go back to Texas first to put flowers on their grandmother’s grave.
Upon returning to the Irving area, the girls were coaxed into going with their father in his taxi for something to eat, but were instead taken to a remote area and shot multiple times.
New calls have emerged for Owens-Said’s arrest, with advocates claiming she helped lure the girls back to their father so he could kill them.
“There’s always been the theory that she tried to cover it up,” said Warner. “She was abused by Yaser. If she didn’t do what he asked, she would get beaten. It was a battered woman syndrome.”
FBI officials declined to comment on the case, saying only that the bureau is assisting in the search for Said. On its wanted poster, the FBI describes the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Said as wearing a mustache and dark sunglasses, both indoors and outside. He frequents Denny's and I-Hop restaurants and smokes Marlboro Light 100 cigarettes. He is believed to be either 50 or 55 years old, according to the FBI.
"Additionally, Said is known to carry a handgun in his taxi cab at all times," the poster warns. "It has also been reported that Said always carries a weapon with him, to include knives."
Calls to the police department in Irving, Texas, where the murders occurred, were not immediately returned.
More common in the Middle East, honor killing has been a controversial issue among Muslims living in Western nations. Many say that the act has nothing to do with Islam and is a holdover from tribal society.
The case of the Said sisters is not the first alleged incident of honor killing on American soil.
In 1989, 16-year-old Palestina Isa, of St. Louis, was murdered by her father Zein Isa, who was helped by her mother.
Zein Isa had grown angry that Palestina had taken a part-time job without his permission and had a boyfriend who was black, further angering the father. The parents were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Zein Isa died on death row due to complications from diabetes in 1997, while his wife's sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole.
More recently, Aasiya Zubar was beheaded by her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, in Buffalo, on Feb. 12, 2009, after she filed for divorce six days earlier. Hassan, who was CEO of Bridges TV, a Muslim-American television network, was sentenced to 25 years to life for second-degree murder.