‘Beautiful girls’: Muslim community mourns preteens slain on New Year’s Eve

A tiny memorial, two candles and a plant, sat on the curb Monday in the spot where a man and two girls were found dead in a car.
A tiny memorial, two candles and a plant, sat on the curb Monday in the spot where a man and two girls were found dead in a car.

A man and two girls believed to be his daughters, ages 9 and 12, are dead in what appears to be a murder-suicide in a car parked next to West Sacramento City Hall on Sunday night.

West Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Roger Kinney said police and fire officials received a call at 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve of “suspicious circumstances” involving a car parked in a commercial lot on West Capitol Avenue.

Fire officials found a 47-year-old man and two girls in the car. All were unresponsive. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. The two girls were transported to the UC Davis Medical Center hospital in Sacramento, where they were pronounced dead later.

Police have not released the names of the victims, but members of Roseville Tarbiya Institute identified the family as longtime participants in the organization.

M.A. Azeez, the center’s senior imam, knew the family and said the two girls “were beautiful kids. (They) went to Salam School with my own daughters in the same classroom for years.”

The girls’ parents had “been going through protracted custody battles after being divorced years ago,” Azeez said, adding that a court had recently ruled in the mother’s favor.

Azeez said be tried to counsel the couple, a Tunisian immigrant who struggled here and his wife, a convert to Islam. He said they attended Salam Islamic Center for years before they started attending Tarbiya.

“It’s an absolute tragedy. There were a lot of kids that knew them and we’re scrambling to decide what to say,” Azeez said.

Other members of the Tarbiya Institute have begun raising money to help the girls’ mother pay for funeral expenses through an online fundraiser. They identified the girls as Sara and Sophia. Both girls were active in Sacramento’s Muslim community, participating in activities such as the Muslim Girl Scouts.

Kinney said there were no obvious injuries or wounds to the trio. He said investigators were releasing no further information about the crime circumstances at this point. The coroner has not released the names of the girls or the man.

Officials contacted the mother of the two girls Monday night. Kinney said she and the father did not live together.

Azeez said the mother is in isolation, supported by a few family members.

“Obviously, she is very distraught,” Kinney said. “But she is cooperating with investigators. She was not involved (in the crime).

“This is just sad, very, very sad.”

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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