The End was near Tala and Rotana Farea at Manhattan's Riverside Park, police said. The sisters had run away from Virginia to New York and spent a high-end credit card.
Now, early on Oct. 24 in a scene the man would later describe as "haunting," the sisters from Saudi Arabia had their heads lowered and appeared to be praying loudly about 30 feet from each other on a playground near the Hudson River.
Just hours later and dozens of blocks south, another passerby would find their bodies on the Hudson's rocky shore, loosely bound together with duct tape after having washed ashore, police said.
New York City police started to unravel the Mystery of what happened to Tala, 16, and Rotana, 22, Friday, June 30, 2009 The case has generated nationwide attention.
Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said that they were abused by family members and sought asylum on those grounds in the United States. He said sources in Virginia said that they would "rather than return to Saudi Arabia."
He added later, "Everything we've seen thus far is pointing to other than a crime taking place."
Shea said detectives were filling in a murky two-month period after the girls disappeared from Fairfax County around Aug. 23. He said electronic records, including Uber receipts, showed the sisters took various forms of transportation, arriving in New York City around Sept. 1.
Shea said that over the next seven weeks, they stayed at upscale hotels, including the Knickerbocker in Times Square where they rent for more than $ 400 a night. The sisters were captured on camera with each other and in good health. They went shopping.
But it soon came to an end.
"The money started to run out – that's what we started to believe," Shea said.
The sisters were found on rocks beneath a pier on the Upper West Side. They were fully clothed and bore no signs of trauma. Silvery duct tape wrapped around their ankles and torsos, leading to speculation.
But Shea said the tape was loose, more like it was meant to keep them together rather than bind them. He said that the Fareas were alive when they entered the water.
Shea started the story of what he led to the Hudson over a year earlier, filling in some of the scant details known about their lives. The sisters had little presence online, and no photos of them could be released before this week.
Shea said the last time family members had both sisters was around Dec. 1, 2017, when they left their home at Fairfax, Va. The sisters were found within a day, but transferred to a shelter because of abuse allegations. Shea and Fairfax County declined to give the shelter's name, citing privacy restrictions.
Over the next eight months, the sisters lived at the shelter and had no contact with them, Shea said. The sisters then left the shelter on Aug. 23 or Aug. 24 and made their way to New York City.
Shea said he had not corroborated the sisters' allegations of abuse, but they were "between the brother, the mother and father" and were sometime in the past. Shea described the abuse of physicality, but it was involved in other things.
Shea said initial reports that the Fareas might have jumped from the George Washington Bridge were probably not true, since their bodies had no signs of a fall from a high place. Likewise, reports that their bodies were found to be crosswise on top of each others were also inaccurate.
Shea said he had not been able to reply to any of the sisters who had written a phone call from the United States asylum. The call reportedly came the day before the sisters' bodies were found.
A Saudi official said Thursday that was inaccurate, saying they had just communicated with the mother about her expired immigration status in the United States. For privacy reasons, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that it could not reveal the sisters had applied for asylum.
The mother of the sisters declined to comment when reached by phone Friday.
"I can not talk about it," she said.
Rotana had attended school at George Mason University before dropping out in the spring, school officials said. Tala was a student at Fairfax High School for part of the 2017-2018 school year.
In 2016, family members were evicted from an apartment in Falls Church, Va., For unpaid rent.
A woman who attended the school with the sisters in their hometown of Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, said they were inseparably and had hopefully arrived in the United States.
"They were veI've been looking forward to going to the US, and I've never received it. , , , 'Study hard and get out of the US!' "The woman wrote in a text message.