When their bodies were found last week on the banks of New York's Hudson River, the sisters wore similar black leggings and fur-trimmed jackets, with their feet and waists bound together by duct tape. Investigators tracked the girls' last movements using credit card records, which showed that they had "maxed out" a card staying in a number of "high end" hotels in NY, where they ordered meals for two people every day in the days leading to their deaths. "Until as best we can surmise at this point in time ... the credit card, the money started to run out".
Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 22, had previously suggested they would rather harm themselves than return to their homeland, police say.
The sisters were seen by their family in Fairfax, Virginia, on November 30, 2017, officials said.
The sisters were pronounced dead where they were found along the riverbank, police said. It said the sisters were students "accompanying their brother in Washington".
New York Police Department investigators believe the deaths to be suicides, the official said, though detectives are still investigating the circumstances surrounding them.
Investigators say the sisters traveled from Virginia and stayed at expensive hotels in the days before they died.
The sisters were Saudi citizens, and their nation's royal consulate general has been in contact with their family and has appointed a lawyer for the investigation.
Despite initial reports that the sisters were bound together, Shea said he would describe the tape as "not binding them together, but keeping them together".
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It was also noted that the girls were loosely taped together and did not appear to have jumped from a great height prior to entering the water.
A spokesperson for the institute called the news of her death "tragic", and said the university was cooperating with police.
They arrived in NY around September 1, and for weeks after that, they were seen on security cameras twice between September 1 and about five or six days before they were found, and seemed to be in good condition, Shea said.
Investigators are looking into reports the girls were allegedly physically abused in the past by family members.
They faced abuse and lived in a "shelter-life facility" after being reported missing in 2017, Shea said.
"We've made significant progress in piecing together pieces of this puzzle to find out what happened", Shea said. At the time, police said the sisters were referred to county family services.
According to investigators, the girls' mother, who still lives in Virginia, told police she got a call from the Saudi embassy the day before their bodies were discovered, saying the family had to leave the US because her daughters applied for political asylum.