PORTLAND, Ore. — The parents of a 15-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing a street in Portland say they are having a hard time dealing with the fact that the suspect has disappeared and may have been helped by the government of Saudi Arabia.
Fallon Smart was struck Aug. 19, 2016. Police say the vehicle was driven by Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, a Saudi who was charged with manslaughter, reckless driving and other crimes.
The mystery seemed cold, and a resolution in court seemed unlikely.
“I got a tip from a law enforcement source that mentioned the Noorah case to me and said this guy was able to get out of the United States with the help of the Saudi government,” he said.
Kavanaugh started digging and found the feds believed Saudi diplomats had footed Noorah's bail and picked him up in a black SUV, after he cut off his ankle monitor.
Then, with a fake passport and a private plane, the feds said the Saudis smuggled Noorah out of the country and back home to Saudi Arabia.
In an interview the NBC News, Smart's mother, Fawn Lengvenis, said she believes Noorah never should have been out on bail.
"We advocated very strongly for him not be released on bail. He was a very obvious flight risk. He had no ties here in the United States. He had no motivation to stay,” said Lengvenis.
Fallon's father, Seth Smart, told The Oregonian/OregonLive the family's lives have been "forever changed."
"It was like being re-traumatized all over again when he fled," Lengvenis told NBC. "It removes all of the confidences and social norms of what to expect."
“We start digging a little deeper, and that's when we discovered a pattern,” Kavanaugh said.
In fact, Kavanaugh and The Oregonian found four more cases in Oregon alone of Saudi nationals, charged with crimes who disappeared before trial.
Two of them were accused rapists.
“We're interested in this story because we're looking at a potential pattern where a foreign government is helping its citizens, potentially helping its citizens, escape prosecution,” Kavanaugh said. “It doesn't matter if they're from the Arab world, or Europe or any other place.”
In response, Oregon's U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden recently introduced legislation that would impose consequences on foreign countries that help suspected criminals escape justice in the United States.
"Our bills will force the Justice Department to get to the bottom of what happened, and create tough consequences for any government that helps flout the U.S. justice system," Wyden said.
Lengvenis said her family was close to getting the closure they needed from the legal system before Noorah escaped.
"There’s no justice," she said. "And honestly my daughter deserved better. She deserved at least for him to go in front of a jury, a group of peers, and at least have a group of peers to make a decision. That would have been justice for me."