DALLAS — In Yaser Said’s telling, he’s the victim – a victim of a media narrative that painted him as the killer of his two daughters.
Said testified that’s why he fled after his daughters, Amina and Sarah, were found shot to death inside a cab on New Year’s Day in 2008.
“Behind this coverage, there was a secret agenda,” he said. “All the media was stirred in a certain direction and fueled against me.”
Said denied having killed his daughters and implied that one of their friends must have done it. He testified that he did not believe he would get a fair trial.
“The coverage for this case was kind of abnormal, one of its kind and maybe harsh,” Said testified.
Said was the one and only witness taking the stand for the defense. He testified for more than an hour on Monday afternoon. Both sides rested after his testimony.
After both sides rested, the judge ordered that the jury be sequestered.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday morning.
If he's convicted, Said will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Before Said took the stand, Said’s attorneys sought to limit the scope of what prosecutors could ask him during cross-examination, saying he would only testify about the timeframe surrounding the time of his daughters' deaths.
District Judge Chika Anyiam denied those requests.
The judge granted a request that a wanted poster behind him be removed and that the jury not see him in shackles.
His former wife, Patricia Owens, and the daughters' boyfriends have previously testified that they and the girls fled out of state after Said threatened Amina with a gun. They were gone just a few days when Owens said Said convinced her to return home.
On the evening of New Year’s Day, Said left with the two girls to go eat dinner. He acknowledged that he was upset that the girls were dating but said he wanted to solve the problem.
“In my culture, it’s something to get upset about,” he said.
Said testified that while they were driving, he spotted an unknown person following them in a car, causing him to abort the plan to go to dinner.
“I felt my life was in danger,” he said, as one of his attorneys guided him through the chronology.
He testified he initially stopped by the cab stand at the Lodge, a well-known Dallas strip club. But not seeing any cabs there, he decided not to stop.
Next, Said said he decided to go to a bus stop on Riverside Drive in Irving. There he decided to leave the girls and the cab and flee into a wooded area.
“I thought if they are my daughter’s friends, let them solve the problem together if they have issues,” he said. “I told them the car is yours. You can do whatever you want. Since they know how to drive, I left the car for them.”
He said he chose the location due to it being well-lit and having surveillance cameras.
“When you left on foot, you believed that if there was a threat, that threat would follow you?” defense attorney Joe Patton asked.
“Of course, because I thinking they were trying to get to me personally,” Said said.
He did not explain why he believed someone would be trying to attack him or assassinate him. Said testified he had no plan in mind and hoped to catch a ride with one of his cab-driving friends.
Said said he left his cell phone in the car.
He said he walked on foot to a nearby Waffle House and only later heard that his daughters had been murdered.
But under withering cross-examination from lead prosecutor Lauren Black, Said could not explain the many inconsistencies in his testimony.
Black questioned why Said didn’t just go into the strip club and ask for help he was so scared.
“My girls were with me, and I didn’t want to take them into the club,” Said responded.
His wife, Patricia Owens, called him at 7:29 p.m. that night. Said could not explain why he did not tell her that he was concerned someone was following them.
He also did not call 911 to report it.
“You decided to leave the car and your two daughters in the car by themselves?” Black asked.
“I did not expect anyone would harm them,” he responded. “I was thinking someone sent them after me to harm me and not my girls.”
Four minutes after Owens called Said, Sarah Said called 911 reporting that her father had shot her and that she was dying.
FBI Special Agent Mark Sedwick testified that cell phone analysis that Yaser and Sarah Said’s phones were in the same vicinity between 6:57 p.m and 7:30 p.m. that night.
Sedwick testified that after Owens’ call, Yaser Said’s phone was either turned off or not connected to the network.
Black also asked him about his 9mm handgun.
Said testified that he carried it with him when he was working and that he had it with him that night. He testified that he left it in the car with the girls.
He said he did not take it because he was “thinking there’s nothing harmful” – which is hard to square with his other testimony that he was so afraid that he got out of the car and fled on foot.
Said said in his testimony that he believed the girls had been “harmed by their own friends,” although he also said he did not know who was in this car he claimed was following them.
He denied being present at the hotel where the girls’ bodies were later found in the cab.
Black asked him why he did not show up to the funerals.
His attorneys objected, saying noting that he is still facing federal charges for having fled capture.
The judge overruled the objection.
Said said he didn’t go the funerals "because of the unfair and hateful media coverage" at the time.
“There was no evidence, but all the accusations was against me,” he said.
Defense attorneys also objected when prosecutors tried to ask Said about the allegations of molestation that Amina and Sarah had made against him when they were children.
“It is wholly improper for them to try to get into these extraneous offenses that they failed to substantiate,” Patton told the judge
This time, the judge agreed with the defense.
Next, Black asked Said if he had been violent toward Amina and Sarah. Again, the defense objected and this time the judge sided with prosecutors.
Said denied that he had been violent toward his daughters. He also denied that he had threatened to kill his former wife if the girls did not recant their sexual abuse claims.
“Patricia is lying,” he said. “It never happened.”
He also denied having ever been violent toward his wife.
“Women are more protected, more than men in America,” he said.
Under cross-examination, Said denied that anyone took him to or picked him up from the Waffle House on the night of the killings.
Black questioned him about who took him to or picked him up from the Waffle House on the night of the killings.
Said was vague about what he did after leaving the Waffle House. He testified that he knew during the time he was on the run that he was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.
“That’s why I escaped because I was afraid I wasn’t going to get a fair trial,” he said.
Said was captured in August 2020 at a white frame home in Justin owned by his brother’s daughters.
FBI agents testified that they used a plane to watch the house and placed a hidden video camera on a pole in front of the house.
When FBI agents searched the house, agents testified they found a hidden room with a trap door that authorities believe Said’s family members built to conceal him. The room contained a cot and a prayer rug.
Pictures taken inside the home showed that someone had been living there. Agents also found a wig, an FBI agent’s business card, Yaser Said’s expired passport and numerous rounds of ammunition.
During his testimony, one of Said's defense attorneys asked if he wishes he had stayed with the girls that night.
“Certainly,” he responded.
“Did you love Amina and Sarah?” the defense attorney asked.
“Look at the tapes,” he said. “I have hundreds of tapes showing how much I loved my daughters.”
Said denied knowing what happened to his daughters after he left the cab.
“If the FBI did their work, they would have known, but they were looking for Yaser Said and they did not do what they have to do,” Said said.