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Testimony begins in capital murder trial of Yaser Said, man accused of killing his two daughters 12 years ago

Yaser Said is accused of killing his daughters because they were dating American boyfriends. His defense says he's being persecuted for being Muslim.

DALLAS — On the first day of testimony, Yaser Said sat stoically as prosecutors painted a picture for the jury of a jealous and angry man who controlled his daughters' lives.

“He controlled what they did, who they talked to, who they could be friends with and who they could date,” said Lauren Black, the prosecutor.

Prosecutors say Said killed Sarah and Amina because he was jealous and didn’t want them dating boys who were Americans. 

“You’ll hear in this case that leading up to the murders of Amina Said and Sarah Said, the defendant's behavior got extremely dangerous," Black said.

Sarah’s boyfriend, Erik Panameno, testified they kept their relationship secret.

"She didn’t want dad to find out and if he did something bad would happen to me or something bad would happen to her," Panameno said.

Prosecutors read a letter Amina wrote to their history teacher just 10 days before the girls were killed, talking about their father.

"He has simply made our lives a nightmare. He’s one man, not God,” Amina wrote.

The email came from her account, pinkangelamina@hotmail.com.

In the email, Amina wrote that she and Sarah felt they could trust her to keep the email confidential so that's why they were writing her of their plans.

"We don’t want police involved until we are totally ready," Amina wrote. "I am so scared right now. It’s crazy. OK, well as you know we’re not allowed to date and my dad is arranging my marriage. My dad said I cannot put it off any more and I have to get married this year."

Amina wrote that she and her sister did not want to live by their father's culture and did not want to marry men from the Middle East "especially men we don’t know or love."

In the email, Amina wrote that their father had begun checking their phone records and had threatened to hurt Sarah "very badly if she didn’t tell what was going on."

Amina wrote that they did not plan to tell or bring their mother because they worried she would tell Yaser "out of fear."

Four days after Amina sent the email, the girls, their mother and their boyfriends fled to the state on Christmas Day 2007. They initially went to Kansas, but then decided to go to Oklahoma where they rented an apartment.

A day after they disappeared, Yaser Said reported his wife, Patricia Said, and two daughters missing. Lewisville police officer Jason Williams took the report. 

"Right before we left, he grabbed my hand, took both of his hands around my hands and said, 'Find my daughters. I need them,'" Williams said. 

Panameno, Sarah's boyfriend, testified Said had threatened Amina.

“Her dad pulled a gun on her and said he was going to kill her,” said Panameno.

In the letter to her teacher, Amina wrote she feared her father would find them.

"I know he will search until he finds us and he will without any drama or any doubt kill us," the email said.

Witnesses testified the girls returned back to DFW on New Years’ Eve after their mother convinced them to go back home.

Sarah agreed to return to the family home. But Amina refused, instead seeking shelter at the home of her boyfriend, Edgar Ruiz.

Connie Moggio, the girls’ aunt, testified she spoke with Amina just hours before her death.

“She said her mom was wanting her to go home and she didn’t want to. She said she would rather be dead than go back there,” said Moggio.

The girls' bodies were found on New Year’s Day 2008 in a taxi cab that prosecutors say was driven by their father.

They will play a 911 call Sarah made as she was dying.

"She’s asking for help and she names her killer, her father, Yaser Said,” said Black.

The last person to testify on the first day was Ruiz. 

Ruiz testified that the girl's mother was using Sarah to text Amina asking her to come home. Then Patricia showed up at his doorstep. 

He said he told Patricia that he feared for Amina's safety and he did not think Amina should leave. 

"She kept saying they needed to go. They were running out of time.  They need to go back home," he said.

Ruiz said Amina did not want to go. 

"Patricia just took her by the hand and just took her," he said. 

He says as he left Amina she told him he failed to protect her.

"She said that I would never see her again. This was the last time I would ever see her," he said. "Then she walked out."

He said he believed she believed her father would kill her. 

"She knew she was going to die," he said. 

About 30 minutes after Patricia left with Amina, he said he spotted Amina, Sarah and their father in a cab. Patricia was not with them and he thought that was odd. 

Sarah was in the back seat. Amina was in the front passenger seat.

"Her look was in fear," he said. "She didn’t look like she wanted to be there."

Amina and Sarah were later found dead inside that cab. Amina had been shot twice. Sarah had been shot nine times. Their father was nowhere to be found.

Before she died, Sarah made two calls to tell 911, telling the operator that their father had killed them.

Defense attorneys told the jury they would try to prove that Said was targeted by law enforcement because of his Muslim faith and cultural beliefs.

"We’re more worried about the Muslim than the murders,” said Joel Patton, Said's defense attorney.

Said was on the run for more than 12 years after he was charged with his daughters' murders.

The trial will continue Tuesday.

Watch the full trial here or on the WFAA YouTube page.

    

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