Relatives of slain Jersey City family meet with FBI, lawmakers

Associated Press Writer

February 15, 2005, 5:48 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- Relatives of a slain New Jersey family of four were briefed by FBI officials here Tuesday about the investigation and met with federal lawmakers to express their thanks for the outpouring of support from Americans, but also to express their concerns about the case.

And although the relatives said that all theories surrounding the murder were still on the table, they were adamant in their belief that robbery was not the motive. The relatives, all Coptic Christians like the victims, avoided the reported speculation that religion played a role in the murders.

"We aren't looking for trouble, we're looking for facts," said Emil Garas, an uncle of Amal Garas, 37, one of the victims. Amal Garas was married to Hossam Armanious, 47. The couple's two daughters _ Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8 _ were also killed. Their bodies were found in separate rooms their Jersey City home Jan. 14. They were bound and gagged and all had puncture wounds to their throats.

The family came to the United States in 1997 from their native Egypt. Copts, or Egyptian Christians, comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt's population of 70 million.

Ayman Garas, Amal's brother, said the family strongly believes that robbery was not the motive. About $3,500 worth of jewelry was not taken from the house and the family was not wealthy, he said.

In a family statement read at the news conference, the family addressed briefly the speculation that Armanious was targeted for his religious postings under the name "I Love Jesus" in an Internet chat room.

"Indeed, Hossam was a deeply religious man, whose activities included engaging in religious dialogue via the Internet ... where Hossam practiced his new found freedom of speech," the statement said.

Local prosecutors have not ruled out any motive and Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio has said the FBI has gone to Egypt to investigate the crime. At the news conference, the family denied reports that Armanious' travels to Egypt had something to do with the murders. The family said Armanious last traveled there in the summer of 2002.

The murders have created tension between Muslims and Coptic Christians in the Jersey City area, home to about 30,000 Copts, one of the largest concentrations in the country.

Armanious worked for the banquet department of the Westin Princeton Hotel, and his wife worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Kearny, N.J.

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Copyright 2005, The Associated Press