A Great Big City

Mystery Surrounds Sisters Found Floating in Hudson River

Missing persons sketch
Missing persons sketch via NYPD

Still no clear answers after two women were found duct-taped together in the water off of 68th Street.

Police in both New York and Virginia have been investigating the mysterious deaths of two sisters who were identified as 16-year-old Tala Farea and 22-year-old Rotana Farea, who were recently reported missing from the Fairfax, Virginia area. The investigation into what looked to be a suicide pact between two incredibly similar-looking women has uncovered more details but few answers.

Two days after being discovered in the water just off Riverside Park, the women were identified using police sketches as two sisters from Virginia who had previously been reported missing and spent time in a shelter. They appear to have been Saudi nationals who had emigrated to the U.S. in 2015 and may have recently requested asylum, but no further details have been released as to whether they were denied or why they had recently lost contact with their family. Speaking to Saudi Arabia's Arab News, a family member said that the older sister had recently moved to New York and the younger sister had been reported missing this summer after leaving Virginia to visit her sister in New York without telling their mother. Their mother has reportedly told detectives that she received a call from the Saudi Arabian Embassy ordering her family to leave the U.S. after the sisters applied for asylum, a call that the embassy says was actually about the mother's expired immigration status.

While the possible attempt at gaining asylum is being looked at as a contributing factor that led to their death, the police did state that, due to the lack of trauma to their bodies, they likely did not jump off the George Washington Bridge to commit suicide.

Thursday, November 1 at 6:14pm πŸ“Ž

While official details have yet to be released, a member of law enforcement spoke with CNN concerning the investigation and stated that water was found in the Farea sisters' lungs, which would indicate that the two were alive when they entered the water and is typically seen in suicides. The law enforcement official remained anonymous as the investigation is ongoing and has not reached a conclusive cause of death.

Friday, November 2 at 10:01am: πŸ“Ž

Confusion still surrounds whether or not the family had been contacted by the Saudi Arabian embassy, with the NY Post reporting that their mother told detectives she received a call saying their U.S. residency may be in jeopardy. A Saudi official explained to the Washington Post that the mother's immigration status had expired and that the embassy had contacted her regarding applying for an extension. There has still been no official confirmation that the sisters applied for asylum.

Investigators have been using credit card transactions and phone activity as a way to track the sisters' movements across the city and possibly lead to security camera footage or information that can shed light on their final moments.

Farea sisters via NYPD

If you believe you may have seen the sisters in the city from approximately September 1 to October 24, 2018, contact NYPD CrimeStoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (1-800-577-8477), via text at CRIMES (274637), or via online form. They were found wearing fur-lined coats, yoga pants, and sandals, and may have been wearing something similar during their time in the city.

Friday, November 2 at 1:31 PM πŸ“Ž

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea released new details in a press conference this afternoon:

  • When reviewing credit card information, police saw regular purchases of meals for two and the credit card was maxed out at the time of their death.
  • Leading up to their disappearance, they booked rooms at various hotels.
  • Using information gained in the investigation, the sisters have been seen on video, with the most recent sighting being five or six days before their deaths.
  • Clarification on the timeline leading up to the sisters arriving in NYC: After going missing on November 30th, 2017, they were located December 2017 and placed in a facility similar to a domestic violence shelter, where they are believed to have stayed through August 2018, when they relocated to NYC. They were last seen together on August 24 before traveling to New York.
  • A man who regularly exercises in Riverside Park has come forward to report that he believes he saw the sisters kneeling in prayer around 7am near the site where they would be found dead later that day.

Tuesday, November 13 at 2:53 PM πŸ“Ž

The NYPD continues to piece together the whereabouts of the Farea sisters in the two months leading up to their deaths, but no evidence indicates foul play. The sisters have been laid to rest in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.


If you or anyone you know has been thinking about self-harm, you can find resources at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or from The Samaritans NYC online and at (212) 673-3000 β€” 24 hours a day.

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