David Jiminez announced on his late sister’s Instagram site Tuesday that her pictures of New York City and Istanbul have been selling well online, and the family had already sold enough to cover the expenses of transporting her body back to Staten Island for burial. Jiminez added, “From here on out, any picture of hers that you purchase will NOT be going towards her funeral. All funds will be going to her children. Thank you for your support.” Sarai Sierra’s two sons are 9 and 11 years old. The boys had not been told, as of Tuesday, that their mother is dead. Sarai Sierra was only 33.
Outside Sierra’s apartment on Victory Boulevard Tuesday, a neighbor, Alberto Valentin, remembered the mother always smiling, when she was with her boys—and recalled Sierra’s husband telling him he had to take “his Queen” to the airport in early January.
“I always saw his wife with the kids, taking them to school. Very caring. The kids are beautiful kids,” Valentin said.
Sierra, an amateur photographer, traveled to Istanbul by herself on January 7th, because a girlfriend had to pull out of the trip at the last minute, for financial reasons.
Sierra’s husband, Steven—a city bus driver—flew to Istanbul with Sierra’s brother on January 27th, six days after Sarai failed to make her flight home to New York. Sarai Sierra’s body was discovered February 2nd near some ancient ruins in Istanbul. A witness had told Turkish police she saw a man carrying a bundle near the site, with a woman’s hand sticking out of the bundle. The Daily News reported Tuesday Sarai Sierra was beaten almost beyond recognition. Her husband had the grim task of identifying her at the morgue in Istanbul.
Turkish police took more than 20 potential suspects into custody, after Sierra’s body was found. They took DNA samples from the suspects, hoping to compare them with tissue taken from under Sierra’s fingernails.
A timeline of Sierra’s trip showed she arrived in Istanbul January 7th, renting a basement apartment in Istanbul—in one of the city’s seedier neighborhoods.
She posted photos of her journey, using her iPad, and made a side trip to Amsterdam on January 15th, followed by a stop in Munich, before returning to Istanbul January 18th.
She “skyped” with her two boys back home on January 20th and was supposed to fly to New York on January 21st. On that last day, Sierra told her sister she was meeting a male friend by the historic Galata Bridge in Istanbul. The man’s name was “Taylan”—somebody she had befriended on Instagram. The man later said the relationship was platonic and that Sierra never turned up at the bridge. She never turned up at the airport, either.
Sierra’s parents went into seclusion, after holding a press conference Monday. Her mother had told reporters, “I wanted to see my daughter alive, but at least we have closure.”
Sierra’s neighbor remarked to PIX 11 Tuesday, when talking about the overseas trip, “It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was a husband letting his wife go pursue what she wanted a career in…photography.”
Now, Sarai Sierra’s beloved pictures will be paying for her funeral.