Deaths of Saudi sisters found duct taped along Hudson River ruled suicide

NEW YORK -- The New York City Medical Examiner's Office ruled Tuesday that two women whose duct-taped bodies were found washed up along the Hudson River died by suicide.

The bodies of 16-year-old Tala Farea and 23-year-old Rotana Farea, of Fairfax, Virginia, were found around 2:30 p.m. on October 24 in the vicinity of 68th Street and Riverside Park.

"Today, my office determined that the death of the Farea sisters was the result of suicide, in which the young women bound themselves together before descending into the Hudson River," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said in a statement.

The sisters were said to have preferred suicide over returning to their native Saudi Arabia, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said, and a police investigation found no evidence of a crime.

A bystander out for his morning exercise routine told detectives he saw the sisters in a park on 158th Street around 7 a.m. the morning their bodies were found down river. The sisters were sitting about 30 feet apart, had their heads in their hands and appeared to be praying.

Police said the sisters had reported they were the subjects of abuse, and in December of 2017, they were placed in a domestic violence-type shelter in Virginia. Their family had not seen them since November 30, 2017.

The sisters went missing from that facility August 24, and the NYPD said they took a "series of methods of transportation" to get to New York City on September 1 by way of Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.

The sisters stayed at a "number of high end hotels," Shea said. They ordered two meals a day and went shopping, and they were seen on surveillance video appearing to be fine as recently as a week before their bodies were discovered.

"There's a strong possibility here that a credit card maxed out, that money was running out," Shea said.

Shea said the NYPD has seen reports the sisters applied for asylum and reported they were physically abused, and he said detectives were informed the sisters expressed a desire to "inflict harm on themselves, commit suicide" rather than return to Saudi Arabia after they had been in the United States about three years.
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