An interfaith memorial service honoring the memory of two young sisters who died in what police say was a murder-suicide by their father will be open to the public from 5-7 p.m. Sunday at the Salam Islamic Center in Sacramento.
Sophie and Sara, ages 12 and 9, were found in the car of their father, Hamdy Rouin, on New Year’s Eve in front of a West Sacramento Subway. Their mother, Amy Hunter, had planned to pick them up from their dad there. Rouin and Hunter were divorced and had been going through a long custody battle.
Rouin, 46, was pronounced dead at the scene, while the girls later were declared dead at UC Davis Medical Center. There were no obvious signs of trauma, West Sacramento police said, and the cause of death is under investigation.
Hunter and her family released a statement Wednesday afternoon thanking the public for allowing them to grieve and remembering the sisters as special people.
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“Kindness was their way of life,” the statement said. “They brought joy and beauty to the world. ... They were very close and family was so important to them; they considered themselves lucky to come from families of diverse cultures and religions.”
Their dad was an immigrant from Tunisia who married their mom in Las Vegas. Hunter converted to Islam and is well-known in Sacramento’s Muslim community, where she taught, worked in the Salam bookstore and raised money for Salam’s school.
Sara was described as a bright, confident girl who loved her teachers and classmates. “We teased her that Sara never met a stranger, because anywhere she went, she would make friends,” the statement said. “She always wanted people to feel that they were being seen so she would say hello to everybody in order to make sure they felt good.”
A devotee of “Star Wars” movies, Sara wanted to be a special-effects artist or a mathematician for NASA. She had dyslexia, but “would not allow it to get in the way of her love of learning,” the statement said. A Girl Scout, “she cared passionately about feeding the homeless.”
Her older sister Sophie also was a Girl Scout and loved science and painting. “She was quiet and had a big heart,” the statement said, but she also could be funny and sarcastic. “She saw herself as an ambassador for Islam so that people could see that Muslims are like anyone else and would learn to understand her religion.”
The statement described the sisters as “strong feminists” who planned to attend the Women’s March in Sacramento on Jan. 20.
“We know all the people they touched in their lives are also hurting and missing them,” the statement said. “We share your love of them and in that love they will live on.” Friends of the family have created a Facebook memorial page: www.facebook.com/sophiaandsara/ .
The Salam Islamic Center is located at 4541 College Oak Drive; 916-979-1933, ext. 3.