Sisters found dead, bound together in Hudson River were accomplished students from close, well-off family; Saudi government to probe mysterious deaths as family denies suicide speculation

More details have emerged about the two young sisters who were found dead on the edge of the Hudson River in New York City last week, but authorities still do not have an explanation for their deaths as the probe expands overseas.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, the bodies of two females were discovered by a passerby on Manhattan’s Upper West Side last Wednesday afternoon. The deceased females were identified late last week as Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 22; sisters from Fairfax, Virginia. More recent reports indicate the sisters moved to the U,S, from Saudi Arabia with their family in 2015.

Days after the mysterious deaths, which authorities initially believed may have been a double suicide, many questions remain about the sisters and their lives, as their family has reportedly denied some of the local reporting based on U.S. law enforcement sources.

Conflicting reports have emerged about Tala’s missing persons status: Initially, authorities said the teen girl had been missing since August. But relatives clarified to Arab News, an English-language newspaper based in Saudi Arabia, that the missing persons search was suspended a week later after Tala was found safely with her sister in New York.

But the circumstances of the sisters’ living situation remain unclear. Citing law enforcement sources, AM New York reported that the sisters had earlier gone missing together in December 2017, and that authorities found them both living in a homeless shelter. According to an official who did not want to be identified by AM New York, the teen and her elder sister never returned to the family home in Fairfax after that point.

But a relative of the family who spoke to Arab News said that the Fareas lived in a happy home with their parents and two brothers, ages 18 and 11, and appeared to deny the claims that Tala had run away for any significant amount of time.

“They were just like any one of us, they were a happy family,” the unidentified relative said. “They were comfortable and at ease with everyone, and so the rumors that they ran away from home were beyond us. It’s impossible. Their mother was naturally protective, but in no way was their household problematic for them to run away.”

The relative confirmed that Rotana, a computer and technology college student, had opted to continue studies in New York, and that Tala had followed her there recently, apparently without informing her other family members.

“Tala was upset for quite some time after her sister decided to continue her studies in NYC,” the relative said.

“Yes, it did cause a problem for the family as the mother had to file a missing case report to the police over her daughter’s disappearance, but the search was called off later when they found Tala was with her sister, Rotana. The police told their mother that since her younger daughter was safe with an adult, it’s safe to call off the search.”

According to the Arab News report, Rotana had chosen not to apply for a scholarship to study abroad, which is reportedly available to all Saudi students who travel overseas for school, suggesting that the family had financial means. It remains unclear what her father Abdulsalam Farea does for work, but he reportedly traveled to Saudi Arabia frequently in connection to his job.

The report also states that Tala, too, was an accomplished student and had attended Dar Al-Fikr, reportedly a prestigious school in Jeddah. But it is not known if or where the 16-year-old girl was being educated in the United States, and none of the media reports about the deaths have named the school that her older sister was presumably attending in New York.

On Tuesday, the Royal Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in New York released a statement on Twitter about the deaths of the young sisters, reporting that it was working with authorities in the U.S. to uncover more information about the deaths, “in keeping with its responsibility towards the citizens of the Kingdom of Saudi Arbia and mindful to keep the details of the case private and to avoid inaccurate reporting.”

The statement also says that the sisters “were students accompanying their brother in Washington.”

NBC News reports that at an unrelated news conference on Tuesday, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said that a forensic examination to determine the sisters’ cause of death had not been completed, and that authorities had traveled to Virginia to seek further clues into the circumstances surrounding the deaths, which have not been ruled as a homicide.

“We are out to get justice for those two girls,” Shea said.