USA police probe deaths of Saudi sisters found duct-taped together

Investigators continue to decipher "numerous volumes of records" between their arrival in New York City and October 24, but have records indicating they stayed at a number of high-end hotels, regularly ordered multiple meals a day and went shopping, Shea said.

The witness was out exercising at about 7 a.m. when he saw two girls sitting about 30 feet apart with their heads in their hands, praying.

The Saudi consulate in NY said it had "appointed an attorney to follow the case closely", while the Saudi embassy in Washington contacted the family and "extended its support and aid in this trying time".

That day, Shea said, a man in the park saw the sisters, who had been in the USA for two to three years, sitting about 30 feet apart "sitting with their heads in their hands ... and they were making noises loudly that he described as praying".

New York Police Department investigators believe the deaths to be suicides, the official said, though detectives are still investigating the circumstances surrounding them.

Instead, they now believe the girls walked into the water alive with their waists and ankles loosely bound with duct-tape, and that no crime was committed against them that caused their deaths.

Shea stopped short of saying that the sisters had killed themselves but said police have "no credible information that any crime took place". Police said reports of abuse by the mother, father and brother against the sisters have been brought to the attention of the NYPD, but have not been corroborated.

A law enforcement official who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity previously said investigators have not found anything to indicate the sisters were victims of foul play.

A spokesperson for the institute called the news of her death "tragic", and said the university was cooperating with police. Shea said they were particularly interested in finding out what happened since they were reported missing and what led them to New York City. They were reported missing September 12.

Tala, 16, and Rotana, 22, had reportedly applied for political asylum a week before their bodies were discovered, and had stated a desire to take their own lives rather than return to Saudi Arabia.

Investigators are looking into reports the pair was allegedly physically abused in the past by family members. HuffPost could not independently confirm this, and the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We are out to get justice for those two girls and to find out exactly what happened", Shea said.

When officers arrived on the scene, they discovered the two unconscious and unresponsive with no obvious signs of trauma.

  • Rogelio Becker