Authorities initially believed the sisters, 16-year-old Tala Farea and 22-year-old Rotan Ferea, committed suicide by jumping from the nearby George Washington Bridge, but further investigation revealed no signs of trauma that would indicate such a plunge, New York Police Department Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said at a Friday press conference. Police said they have credible sources that say the sisters expressed "they would rather commit suicide than return to Saudi Arabia".
A passerby who frequently exercised in Riverside Park said he was jogging for his daily exercise routine Monday morning and witnessed two girls sitting together with their hands in their heads, loudly praying near the scene where they were found later that day.
Shea said the sisters told people in Virginia they would "rather inflict harm on themselves" than return to Saudi Arabia.
New York Police Department investigators believe the deaths to be suicides, the official said, though detectives are still investigating the circumstances surrounding them.
On Aug. 24 of this year, the two went missing from the facility.
The Saudi Arabian citizens and students who were accompanying their brother in Washington, D.C., the Royal Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in NY.
Police are urging anyone who saw the sisters between August 24 and October 24 - the timeframe of when they left the shelter to when their bodies were discovered - to come forward with information.
The Farea sisters moved to the US two or three years ago and lived in Fairfax, Virginia.
This past Wednesday, a man described as a credible source contacted investigators about something that had been "haunting him", Shea said.
Two Saudi sisters whose bodies washed ashore on the banks of the Hudson River in New York City were seeking asylum in the U.S. A George Mason spokesman called the news of her death "tragic", and said the university was cooperating with police. They were seen on surveillance footage, apparently in good health, a week before their bodies were discovered. They were reported missing September 12.
Shea said earlier this week that detectives have been in Virginia conducting interviews with members of the immediate family to shed light on "what was going on in the two young ladies' lives".
The New York Police Department declined to confirm the Times' report.
He said the police "have reports" that the two had requested asylum.
"We've made significant progress in piecing together pieces of this puzzle to find out what happened", Shea said.