Armanious Family ATM Card Used After Murder
Hossam Armanious, 47, his wife, Amal Garas, 37, and their daughters, Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8, were found stabbed to death inside their Jersey City home on Jan. 14. Investigators believe the family was killed the night of Jan. 11, although their bodies were not found until Jan. 14. That delay, authorities say, has made tracing the killers extremely difficult.
Each victim had been bound, gagged and stabbed in the throat. Investigators have determined they were killed with a knife that had been kept in the family's home. The family's furniture drawers had been rifled through, Armanious' wallet was found
empty near his body and the pocketbook of Sylvia Armanious was empty, authorities have said.
Yesterday, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said someone withdrew "thousands" of dollars from Armanious' bank account using his ATM card and secret password. The ATM card was used on "a number of different occasions" at banks in the Heights section of Jersey City, where the family lived, and in Midtown Manhattan.. The withdrawals continued for several days after news of the slayings was broadcast and splashed across front pages throughout the region.
Thousands of dollars were withdrawn from his account, though DeFazio would not disclose the exact total, the number of transactions, nor the banks involved. He also would not comment on whether investigators believe the person using the card was the same person, or people, who killed the family.
Many ATMs are equipped with video cameras, but DeFazio declined to say whether investigators had obtained photos or video of the person, or people, who used Armanious' card.
Church leaders and others in the Coptic community have speculated about a religious motive, saying they believe Armanious was targeted by Muslim extremists for criticizing Islam in Internet chat rooms.
"We have not been able to corroborate this Internet ... speculation," DeFazio said. "So I'm not going to say for sure that that is not involved, but I am going to say that we haven't been able to corroborate it and we have corroborated this monetary motive." Asked specifically about possible religious motive, DeFazio said, "It could still be. It could be a hybrid."
Authorities say the killers left behind no hate messages not did they desecrate Coptic Christian artifacts in the home or the traditional cross tattoos each family member had on their wrists.
DeFazio said investigators remain "guardedly optimistic" the killer or killers will be found.