‘That devil there’: Mother of Sarah, Amina Said testifies at ex-husband’s murder trial

Yaser Said, 65, is accused of fatally shooting Sarah and 18-year-old Amina on New Year’s Day 2008 in Irving.

Update: Updated at 1:19 p.m. with additional information throughout.

Patricia Owens’ face grew red and her lips pursed as she pointed to the man accused of killing her two daughters. Their own father.

“That devil there,” Owens said of Yaser Said, the man she divorced while he was on the run after the murders.

Owens took the stand in a Dallas County courtroom Thursday, the third day of Said’s capital murder trial. It was the first time she’d seen Said since New Year’s Day 2008, when she believed that he was taking their daughters out for dinner.

Instead, Said, 65, is accused of shooting 18-year-old Amina Said and 17-year-old Sarah Said multiple times in a taxi cab that he left outside an Irving hotel.

Said was on the lam for 12 years until his arrest in August 2020 at a family home in Denton County. If convicted, he faces an automatic life sentence because prosecutors are not pursuing the death penalty. Said’s son, Islam Said, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for helping him hide. Said’s brother, Yassein Said, got 12 years for the same conviction.

Owens fixed her eyes straight ahead as she walked into the courtroom. Said, sitting across the room next to his lawyers and an interpreter, cocked his head to watch her.

Owens told jurors she was 15 when she married Said in February 1987. He was 29. She gave birth to their three children in the first three years of marriage.

Said became abusive and controlling, Owens said, and she left him countless times.

Amina and Sarah accused their father of sexual abuse in 1998. Owens made a report with the Hill County Sheriff’s Office where they lived. She and the three children left Said for about four months. Owens said Said threatened to kill her and her family if she didn’t return. She filed a police report but took the kids back to Said a few months later and the girls recanted.

Owens and the girls fled Said again in December 2007. Owens said the girls wanted to leave because Said prohibited them from dating.

Jurors previously heard from their former boyfriends and a Lewisville High School teacher who said the girls feared Said would kill them.

Owens knew the girls’ boyfriends and approved. But she kept their secrets from Said.

“I just thought he would, like, punish them, like take their phone away and stuff like that,” Owens said.

Amina, Sarah and Owens fled to an apartment in Tulsa with the girls’ boyfriends. But Owens said she and the girls wished to go home so they could finish the school year. Amina and Sarah were honor students who dreamed of becoming doctors.

Owens’ testimony was at odds with what Amina’s boyfriend told jurors: He said Amina did not want to return.

Owens and Sarah went back to Said, but dropped Amina off at her boyfriend’s house on Dec. 30, 2007. On New Year’s Day, Said started chewing the inside of his cheek, which Owens said he did when he was angry.

Owens brought Amina home that evening. Said hugged Amina when she returned, Owens said. He kissed her forehead and a tear trailed down his face, Owens said. Amina returned the embrace, she said.

Photos of Sarah and Amina Said are shown during the second day of trial for Yaser Said at...
Photos of Sarah and Amina Said are shown during the second day of trial for Yaser Said at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. Said is accused of killing his daughters 18-year-old Amina Said and 17-year-old Sarah Said on New Year’s Day in 2008. Said, who entered a not guilty plea Tuesday, faces an automatic life sentence if convicted. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)(Shafkat Anowar / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Prosecutors asked Owens if she had any inclination what would happen. Amina was shot twice and Sarah was shot nine times, lawyers have said.

Owens looked up at the ceiling before answering.

“Part of me did,” Owens said. “Part of me didn’t.”

She paused and looked at her lap.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

Owens’ demeanor was demure and she spoke softly. Her eyes shifted around the courtroom during the nearly two hours she was on the stand. She quickly glanced toward Said a few times. He leaned forward and watched her testify.

That night, Owens recalled, Amina said she was hungry, so Said said he’d take the girls to a nearby Denny’s. He left Owens and their son, Islam, behind.

Patricia Owens, the mother of 18-year-old Amina Said and 17-year-old Sarah Said, exits the...
Patricia Owens, the mother of 18-year-old Amina Said and 17-year-old Sarah Said, exits the courtroom on the third day of trial for her ex-husband Yaser Said at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Said, 65, faces a charge of capital murder and an automatic life sentence if convicted of killing his daughters on New Years Day 2008 after evading capture for 12 years.(Liesbeth Powers / Staff Photographer)

After the killings, Owens lived briefly with Islam. But eventually, she got her own apartment and she said she believed Islam flew to Egypt. Owens said she has since been diagnosed with several medical conditions, including severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Randall Johnson, an Irving police detective, testified he sensed from talking with the mother and son that night that Islam was “controlling the situation more than Patricia.” Johnson, who has since retired, described Owens as reserved.

Owens turned over a box of ammunition from their house, Johnson said. The bullets, 9 millimeter Lugers from the brands FC and Winchester, matched shell casings retrieved from the cab, Johnson said.

Defense attorneys have argued police ignored the girls’ boyfriends as suspects and wrongly narrowed in on Said. Johnson told jurors they did investigate the boyfriends.

“Initially we were looking at the two boyfriends, and then we focused on the defendant,” he testified.

But police did not test for gunshot residue on their hands, defense lawyers pointed out, and two other detectives who testified Thursday said they were not suspects. Irving detective Joe Hennig said he listened to Sarah’s 911 call when he got to the police station that night and heard her say, “Help, my dad shot me.” Jurors heard the call on Wednesday.

Said was added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted fugitives list in 2014. Hennig said the FBI’s online bulletin described the crime as an “honor killing” — a narrative that took off soon after the killings and reignited after Said’s arrest. It was perpetuated in a 2014 documentary called The Price of Honor, which fueled speculation Said killed his daughters because he harbored archaic beliefs that they should die for bringing shame to the family.

Hennig testified Irving police rejected that characterization of the slayings.

The girls were discovered in an orange Jet Taxi cab that police said Said borrowed from a fellow driver. That driver, Jihad Tafal, told jurors Said asked to use the car a few days before Christmas because he didn’t like the owner of the car he leased.

Taxi drivers lease vehicles for short stints, often weeks at a time, from fleet owners whom the cars are registered to.

Tafal insisted Said fill out paperwork with its owner to replace Tafal’s name on the lease. But Said never did, the owner testified.

The orange car had GPS, but former Irving police Detective John Schingle testified the GPS was turned off on the evening of Dec. 31, 2007. Schingle is an investigator with the Dallas County district attorney’s office.

“There’s almost 24 hours where we don’t know where that cab went,” Schingle said.

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