NEW YORK - The New York City Police Department has released photos of two sisters from Northern Virginia who were found dead – fully clothed and bound together with duct tape – on rocks on Manhattan’s West Side last week.
Police released the photos in an effort to develop more information about the sisters.
Authorities in New York and Fairfax County in Virginia have identified them as 16-year-old Tala Farea and 22-year-old Rotana Farea.
Investigators have said they did not see any obvious signs of trauma on the bodies when they were found on Oct. 24 in the area of 68th Street and Riverside Park.
Their mother told detectives the day before the bodies were discovered, she received a call from an official at the Saudi Arabian Embassy, ordering the family to leave the U.S. because her daughters had applied for political asylum, New York police told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia's Consulate General in New York said in a statement that it had "appointed an attorney to follow the case closely."
New York City police sent a detective to Virginia to learn more about the sisters. Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said they were particularly interested in finding out what happened since they were reported missing and what led them to New York City.
"We are looking at all clues in their past life," Shea said.
The medical examiner's office was investigating the cause of death. The lack of obvious trauma appeared to rule out a theory they jumped into the river from the George Washington Bridge.
In its statement, the Saudi Consulate General said embassy officials in Washington had contacted the family and "extended its support and aid in this trying time." It said the sisters were students "accompanying their brother in Washington."
Tala and Rotana moved to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia with their mother in 2015, settling in Fairfax.
Rotana was enrolled at George Mason University, but left in the spring. A George Mason spokesman called the news of her death "tragic," and said the university was cooperating with police.
Police said the sisters left their family home and were placed in a shelter after an earlier disappearance, in December 2017.
They were reported missing again Aug. 24.
According to a public records search, the sisters at one point lived in Falls Church at Skyline Towers Apartments with their father, which is the most recent address we could find for them.
Tala was a student for a portion of the 2017-18 school year at Fairfax High School, according to a Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson.
A tweet from the General Consulate of Saudi Arabia in New York stated that the sisters were Saudi citizens and they are following this case closely with authorities.
The New York City Medical Examiner's Office says there is still no determination on how they died.
If you have any information that might help police, call 1-800-577-8477.
Information from the Associated Press used in this report.