Family and friends filled a Staten Island church Friday morning, to say goodbye to a mother murdered during a trip to Turkey.
Sarai Sierra was remembered not by the violent end she met a world away, but by all the lives she touched in her own special way. “I miss your voice, your infectious laugh, the memories we shared,“ sobbed Christina Jimenez, as she spoke from the altar about her sister.
“She was a lovely lady, witty, funny, very loving. Everything she did, she did with passion,” said family friend Annette Bernabe. More than 300 mourners filled the Christian Pentecostal Church where Sarai met and married her husband Steven Sierra. Getting a hug from the pastor who married them in 1998, and with the couple’s 9-year-old son at his side, the grieving husband alluded to the ups and downs in their marriage.
“We drove each other crazy. She knew how to push my buttons, I knew how to push hers,” Sierra said. “As much as she would complain, as much as I would complain, the love was truly deep.” The mother of two was found bludgeoned to death in Istanbul on Feb. 2. She travelled there alone, her first time out of the country, after a friend backed out. But when she failed to board her plane last month, her brother and husband flew over there to search for her. Her body was later found by Istanbul’s ancient walls.
“I’m asking the Lord a lot of questions,” Sierra told mourners. “Why this way? I don’t understand, why this way?” Turkish media published reports that Sierra had an affair with a Turkish man she initially met on the internet. Sierra’s husband told PIX 11 that she didn’t cheat on him.
While the young mother was buried in a cemetery just yards from her family home on Staten Island, police in Turkey said they interviewed the brothers and sister of a suspect they’re looking for. He’s a scrap paper collector, often seen near the ancient walls of Istanbul where Sierra’s body was found.