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Sisters found dead, bound together in Hudson River had recently applied for asylum; family says they were afraid of water

The mysterious deaths of two young sisters found in the Hudson River last week continues to perplex authorities, who now appear to be walking back a theory that the sisters jumped to their deaths from the George Washington Bridge.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, the two females found by a passerby on the edge of the river along Riverside Park in Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Wednesday afternoon have been identified as sisters Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 22, both reportedly from Fairfax, Virginia. 

The bodies found in the Hudson River were bound together at the ankles and possibly the waist. Still, for several days law enforcement sources continued to speculate that the teen girl and the young woman may have jumped from the George Washington Bridge in a possible suicide pact. But on Monday, the New York Times reported that investigators now believe a jump was unlikely. There were no visible signs of trauma on the bodies, and investigators reportedly believe the sisters were not in the water for very long before they were found — meaning that a suicide jump from the bridge would have likely taken place during daylight hours, and been spotted by witnesses.

A medical examiner is still working to determine the cause of death.

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Citing law enforcement sources, the New York Times reports that the sisters, who are natives of Saudi Arabia, had repeatedly gone missing and had recently applied for asylum in the U.S. AM New York reports that a NYPD spokesperson said authorities were looking to confirm that the sisters had requested asylum, and to corroborate a reported claim by their mother that Tala and Rotana had been ordered back to Saudi Arabia as a result of their asylum request. The family reportedly arrived in the U.S. in 2015.

Earlier this week, the English-language Saudi-based newspaper Arab News reported that Rotana and Tala’s relatives, who live in Fairfax, insisted the sisters would not have taken their own lives, and contradicted news reports that Tala had been missing since August. A family member reportedly told Arab News that the August missing persons search was called off a week after the initial report, when Tala’s family discovered that the teen had gone to New York to visit her sister. But the sisters reportedly lost contact with their family a week before they were found dead.

AM New York reports that the Tala and Rotana’s family had previously reported them missing in December 2017 but that police found the sisters safe, living in a homeless shelter in Fairfax. 

On Tuesday, Arab News reported additional denials made by the family that the sisters had taken their own lives. Relatives reportedly said that Rotana and Tala were happy at home, and that both were afraid of water. A relative said that Rotana had come to New York City for school, corroborating U.S. media reports that she had recently moved from Fairfax.

“They were a democratic family, they never had any issues and the eldest was sent to college in New York City with her family’s blessing,” the identified family member told Arab News.

The family reportedly told the news outlet that Tala missed her sister and came to visit her in New York without notifying her family.

This is a developing story. CrimeOnline will provide further updates once more information is available.

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