The most mysterious house in Sarasota has got to be 4224 Escondito Drive in Prestancia. It was here a well-to-do and well connected Saudi family reportedly hosted visits from the 9/11 hijackers while they were in the area for flight training. Then, less than two weeks before the attacks, the family suddenly disappeared, leaving their clothes, food, cars—everything, including their twin babies’ soiled diapers.
Recent press coverage of the notorious 28 missing pages from the official government report of 9/11 have once again put the house in the news but done little to clear up the mystery.
The house was built in 1994 and is designed in a mixture of Med Rev and contemporary styles. It has four bedrooms and three baths in a total of 3,750 square feet. The kitchen is nice and large; there is smallish pool that is well secluded.
The residents were a young family named al-Hiijjii. The real owner was her father, a prominent interior decorator in Riyadh, with ties to the royal family. She wore a 10 carat heart-shaped diamond ring and westernized clothes. They owned three cars: a Range Rover, a Lexus and a brand new PT Cruiser. They did not socialize much with the neighbors and did not belong to the country club at Prestancia. But they did like going to the movies at Sarasota Square Mall.
Reports say the home was opulently furnished. Exactly how it got “unowned” by the al-Hiijjiis is a little unclear—it was never seized by the government—but local realtor Louise Tessier of Keller Williams was approached by the family before the attacks when they were planning to sell. Later the house had a succession of owners, including, for a brief period, Joel Schemmel of Premier Sotheby’s. It was last sold as a short sale in 2015 for $450,000 (quite a bargain for Prestancia). Its Zillow estimated value is $670,000.
The issue here is Saudi knowledge and possible support of the 9/11 attacks. Records from the guard gates at Prestancia (one of the town’s more prestigious gated communities) show cars belonging to Mohammed Atta and other hijackers coming and going. It’s part of a larger mystery and one that has yet to be explored in-depth. What did the hijackers do during that year they were here? Who did they hang out with? What other clues are out there, strewn around town, yet to be discovered?