American journalist, her mother murdered in Istanbul. Why didn’t the US investigate?

Turkish authorities say Halla and Orouba Barakat were killed in a family dispute. Others suspect a targeted assassination.
10:52 | 10/10/20

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Transcript for American journalist, her mother murdered in Istanbul. Why didn’t the US investigate?
There's some stories that live with you. And for me it's what happened to Halla Barakat. An American journalist brutally murdered along with her mother in istanbul, Turkey. Didn't make sense. The pieces of the puzzle didn't fit. Blood splattered everywhere. Authorities say this is a crime of passion, but others believe the evidence here points to something else. Turkey can be a dangerous place for journalists. The details are out there somewhere. These women mattered. They mattered. What happened to Halla and her mother, aruba, would take me and an international team of journalists and investigators on a years-long journey around the globe. Can you please describe the knife wounds that you saw? There was really only one person who could tell us exactly what happened that night. I'm going to ask him directly if he killed Halla and aruba. You just say, I did not kill anyone. I first met Halla Barakat four years ago when she came bounding into our New York offices, full of enthusiasm, a young journalist, a lot of Halla was 23 years old, she wasust really starting her career. Halla was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, when her mother, aruba, was living with her cousin, Suzanne's family. Halla, which means "Beauty," was always so beautiful, ever since she was a little girl. If I could describe Halla in one word, one word only, I would say that she was alive. In that she wasn't afraid of her emotions. Hello, viewers. This is Halla Barakat reporting from istanbul. Halla and ouruba settled in istanbul, Turkey, where she became a vocal member of the Syrian opposition. We'll stay here, we'll stay in camps. Which was working against the regime in Damascus working against president bashar Al Assad. It's a harmful regime that doesn't care about our people. They felt the Assad regime is brutal, and there's no justice in Syria as long as he and his family have been in charge. Halla was last heard from, from her colleague. When she didn't show up to work, her colleague called her friends. Halla's friend went to check on her, and there was no answer when she knocked on the door to the apartment. So the police came, they had a locksmith open the door. And that's when they saw the bodies. It was a shocking video. It just showed an absolutely grisly crime scene. The bodies had been covered in blankets, detergent had been sprinkled on the blood on the floor. That seemed to be a way to conceal their odor from decomposition, which would give the killer or killers time to get away, days to get away. It was suspect from the beginning. There was no screaming heard by any of the neighbors. I think it shocked the community. The Turkish media took interest, but the international media, it was just kind of a story that quickly passed through. About a week after the killings, there's a break in the case. Turkish police arrested a young Syrian named Ahmad Barakat outside of istanbul. He was a distant cousin of Halla and ouruba's and he confesses to the murders. He'd been living in Turkey only a few months. He'd been by his own confession struggling to support himself after a stint in the free Syrian army. She offered him help by giving him some work. There is security camera footage placing Ahmed in the neighborhood that night. He's seen on the roof to their apartment. The last time he's picked up is a few blocks away. Then on the morning after the murder, around 11:00 A.M., he can be seen leaving along a similar route in the opposite direction. What happened to them so is gruesome and horrific and unacceptable. Their lives mattered. And it matters that we know what happened and why it happened. And to hold those people accountable. Suzanne Barakat, a young fit in the San Francisco bay area, who was Halla and orouba's cousin, took on the mantle not only of being the family's representative, but spearheading an effort to find out what happened to them. At those meetings, they promised the case of Halla Barakat was a high priority for the trump administration. Then there was a long period of silence where Suzanne heard nothing from the government. No one following up with the families to see how they can be of support. No outreach from within the American government to say what the hell are you guys doing, how is this permissible, let's stay on top of it, let's figure out what happened. That's when our team got involved with the center for investigative reporting. We obtained the Turkish prosecutor's report. One of the first things we find is Ahmed's DNA is found under orouba's fingernails. That's pretty damning. According to the prosecutor's report, he eventually confesses, through a court translator, telling investigators that he had killed orouba in a dispute over money in a kind of crime of passion. Orouba and Ahmed had an argument, it turned into a physical altercation. Things got violent, she attacked him with a knife, he defended himself, killed orouba, and Halla witnessing all of this wouldn't stop screaming, so he killed Halla too. You've got a confession, you've got DNA, you've got camera footage, it's a cut and dried case. But when you look at that crime scene, it raises some obvious questions. There's the detergent. Witnesses say it was sprinkled wherever there was blood scattered on the floor. That seems like an unusually sober step for someone to have 10 who's in the midst of a crime of passion. There was this question from the beginning. Given how outspoken these women were and how professional the killings seemed to be, was ts politically motivated? Was it a hit job? So a few days after the murders, orouba's Twitter account was hacked. A picture of Assad, a kind of cryptic message appeared on her account. Greetings from the golden condor, Assad's soldiers are everywhere. Was this a clue or just a coincidence? Forensic experts who examined crime scene swabs say that foreign DNA was found under orouba's fingernails, and that DNA matches Ahmed aprofile. But the autopsy report says no foreign DNA was found anywhere on orouba's body. So there's a contradiction there, and that's the only piece of physical evidence that actually puts Ahmed inside the apartment. But investigators, their first impression was that both women had been killed, quote-unquote, slaughter style, by a single cut to the throat. It's Muslim tradition for the family members of the deceased to wash their bodies before burial. So shaza, orouba's sister, would have been one of the last people to see them. So we called her in Syria to see what she remembers from that day. Hello, shaza? The Turkish prosecutor in their report said that each victim was stabbed with a knife in the front. Very deep stab wounds. You oversaw Halla and orouba being washed for burial and prepared for burial. Can you please describe the knife wounds that you saw? The autopsy reports are painting a picture of kind of a wild -- Crime of passion? Crime of passion. Shaza is describing -- sounds more like a sneak attack, in a sense, surprising somebody from behind, cutting their throat. More of a precise, professional hit. Absolutely. Hey, my name's Pete madden, I'm an ABC news reporter. I'm calling to book travel and accommodations to istanbul. At this point there was really only one person who could tell us exactly what happened that night. At 11:20 tomorrow night? Okay, turkestan. Yeah, let's do that. A convicted killer, Ahmed Barakat. He'd appealed his conviction. Under Turkish law, if your case is under appeal, you can meet with a certified Turkish lawyer. I decided to fly to Turkey to meet up, see if we could track Ahmed down. So we're heading to the jail where the convicted killer, Ahmed Barakat, is being held. ABC hired a lawyer to go in and ask him a couple of questions. So we're hoping today's going to be a big day. What are some of the key questions we're going to ask I'm going to ask him directly if he was the one doing it or not. If he killed Halla and orouba Barakat. Good luck. Good luck. Thank you. Don't be scared.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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