American Girls

Crossing between American and Egyptian cultures, he Said girls made one deadly misstep: They fell in love

After witnessing an argument between Sellers and her now ex-husband on the lot, Yaser got out of his cab to talk. "He said he didn't feel so alone," Sellers says, "that he realized other people had problems in their marriage too. He was frustrated because he felt Patricia was very immature, not a good wife or a good mother."

Sellers told him: "You married her at age 15. That means you have to raise her."

"Yes, but when does she finally grow up?" Yaser asked.

Sexually molested by a relative as a child, Tissie—who agreed to a brief phone interview—says she has trouble "dealing with issues," usually running away from problems.

"There was a constant battle over how to rear the children," Sellers says. "He didn't want his daughters dating because dating American boys leads to sex." At times, Tissie would secretly help the girls avoid their father's rigid rules.

When Yaser asked Sellers' advice about switching the girls from private to public school, she advised against it. As they entered high school, Amina and Sarah had blossomed into vivacious beauties. At a large public school, boys would swarm them like bees to flowers.

Using trickery, Yaser had already discovered Amina had a boyfriend, before Eddie. Yaser gave her a car to drive to her many lessons—karate, cheerleading, anything to get out of the house. Suspicious because Amina seemed happy, Yaser replaced the driver's airbag with an audio recorder and caught her talking to her boyfriend on her cell phone. Yaser hit and kicked Amina in the face, shredding her lips on her braces.

Yaser decided to move the family from an apartment in Bedford to a small house in Lewisville.

Tissie and Yaser found a home in a Hispanic neighborhood not far from a freeway. The girls would go to Lewisville High School, but Yaser would supervise them like a prison guard.

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As a high school senior, Amina, with her straight black hair, green eyes and creamy café au lait skin, could have posed on the cover of Seventeen magazine. Fresh, sporty, the all-American girl.

"She wanted trendy clothes, hip stuff," says school friend Justin Finn. "Her father wanted the Muslim way of life. She was Muslim because her family was, but she wasn't sure about it. She wanted to go her own way."

Like most teens, Amina and Sarah chatted on cell phones, listened to music and loved to take pictures of each other clowning around. Unlike their peers, Amina and Sarah never hung out with their friends after school or on weekends. No one visited them at home. At times, friends saw the girls with bruises and welts they said were caused by their father. They told friends their father would kill them if they dated American boys.

"Amina mentioned they had gone to Egypt in the past," Finn says, "and if he asked her to go back to Egypt, she wouldn't go."

As soon as Amina became a teenager, Yaser tried to match his daughter up with different Egyptian men, including a cousin. Under Islam, a woman must agree to the marriage. Amina always refused. She told Eddie that Yaser's father, who had come to the United States, was pushing it. "He asked, 'Why aren't they praying?'" Eddie says. "'Why do they dress so slutty?'"

Yaser kept both girls under constant scrutiny. Either he or brother Islam escorted them to the bus stop in the morning, picked them up after school, accompanied them to work and watched them clock in, then ushered them home. Yaser would leave to drive his taxi only after his daughters were in for the night.

In the summer of 2007, both sisters got jobs at a Kroger a few blocks from their home, where Tissie had been working for about five months. "They were a joy to work with," says their former boss. "They were my best employees."

Amina met Eddie, an 18-year-old Hispanic who mowed lawns and was attending junior college. They started seeing each other from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. when she had tennis class, the only time they could get together. Amina warned Eddie: "My father is really psycho." He continually asked his daughter if she was still a virgin.

Amina told him, "Of course."

But, passionately in love, Amina and Eddie had started having sex. Their intimacy brought Amina anxiety. In November, she sent him a text-message saying that they had to talk immediately.

"You're probably going to think I'm dirty and won't look at me the same way," Amina said. "My dad had sex with me and my sister Sarah." Crying and ashamed, Amina told Eddie it had ended about 10 years earlier.

"She talked about him with so much hatred," Eddie says. "She wanted him to die."

Eddie assured Amina he loved her: "We're in this together."

Sarah met a co-worker, Eric, a clean-cut Hispanic student in ROTC at Lewisville High School. They talked at school and at work; Sarah kept Eric's number in her cell phone under a girl's name. Finn says Amina had two cell phones: one her parents paid for and one Eddie paid for.

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