Story Summary

NY Mom Found Dead in Turkey

Turkey

Sarai Sierra, from Staten Island, New York, had been missing since January 22, when she was supposed to return to the United States. Her father, who had gone to the airport to pick her up, originally thought his daughter had been detained in customs, he said.

After a search that included her husband and brother traveling to Istanbul, Turkish police found Sierra’s body Saturday, near ancient stone walls in Istanbul’s Sarayburnu district, according to the semi-official Anatolian news agency.

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PIX11-  Turkish officials have detained the man they believe killed a Staten Island mother.

The suspect known only as “Ziya T.” is expected to be taken to Istanbul for questioning and possible formal arrest.

His DNA was found under Sarai Sierra’s nails and he was caught on surveillance video trying to sell her jacket.

“Ziya t.” has been on the run since her body was found on February 12th.

He is described as a homeless scrap paper collector who hung out around the place police found Sierra’s body.

Sierra traveled alone to turkey on vacation and died from a blow to the head by a brick.

Police have a suspect in the murder of Staten Island mom Sarai Sierra, who was killed in Turkey during a photography trip.

DNA from blood and skin found on her body have been matched to a homeless man identified as Ziya T., according to reports.  A nationwide manhunt is now in progress, and detectives fear that the man may have fled across the Syrian border.

Police managed to pull the DNA samples from blood on her shirt, as well as skin cells found under her fingernails, according to the Dogan News Agency of Turkey.

Sarai Sierra, from Staten Island, New York, had been missing since January 22, when she was supposed to return to the United States. Her father, who had gone to the airport to pick her up, originally thought his daughter had been detained in customs, he said.

After a search that included her husband and brother traveling to Istanbul, Turkish police found Sierra’s body Saturday, near ancient stone walls in Istanbul’s Sarayburnu district, according to the semi-official Anatolian news agency.

 

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.

Sarai Sierra together with her husband Steven.

Sarai Sierra together with her husband Steven.

“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.

Hundreds attended a wake held for Sarai Sierra, the 33 year old Staten Island woman found dead in Istanbul, Turkey, earlier this month.

Sierra, a mother of two and wife was found bludgeoned to death near an ancient wall in Istanbul. According to reports a homeless man is the focus on the investigation into her murder.

Traveling alone after a friend cancelled, her first trip abroad included stops in Amsterdam and Munich. With photography as a hobby, Sierra

“It’s a tragedy, everyone just came out to show support… We just hope whoever is responsible for this finds justice.” Said one man who knew the victim since kindergarten. Another life-long friend told PIX11, “it’s just really sad to see this happen to such a sweet person.”

Even as the husband of murdered Staten Island mom Sarai Sierra fields questions about his wife’s overseas infidelity, he says, “I’d marry her all over again.”

One Turkish man who was initially questioned by police in Istanbul, known as Talan K., told officials he had sex with Sarai the night before she disappeared, and had planned to meet the aspiring photographer the next day.  It was a meeting he says never happened.

Steven shared much during a conversation, including addressing numerous of his recent on-line posts that have many wondering what he knew about his wife’s overseas activities.

Steven insists his wife was faithful, even as he posted numerous pages about infidelity–one saying “Don’t cheat in a relationship.  If you aren’t happy, just leave” and “Good relationships take two people who truly want to be together.”   He also put up this quote, “Every problem comes to break us or make us.”  Steven insists these were meant to be inspirational to others, that they were in no way a reflection of their 16 year relationship.

We also visited with Sarai’s parents and sister in their Staten Island home.  They are understandably devastated by their daughter’s murder, focusing on her upcoming wake on Valentine’s Day and Funeral on Friday.  Dennis Jimenez generously invited anyone who wants to attend to come to pay their respects,  “Stop by on Thursday. It’s open.”

 

There are new details in the case of  the Staten Island mother Sarai Sierra who traveled to Turkey alone and never came back.

Authorities say just days before her murder, the married mother of two told her landlord in Istanbul that she was single.

There are also allegations that Sierra had sex with a man in a bar bathroom.  The man claims the sex was consensual.

Investigators say weeks before Sierra disappeared, her husband posted messages on Instagram about cheating and bad relationships.

(Staten Island, New York) A shroud-covered container carrying the body of murdered Staten Island mom, Sarai Sierra, arrived at the Matthew Funeral Home–in the Willowbrook section of the borough–just after 8 pm Thursday night.

Sierra’s body was picked up at John F. Kennedy airport by funeral home employees, after a flight from Istanbul, Turkey.

Sarai Sierra's body returned

The shroud-covered container carrying the body of murdered Staten Island mom, Sarai Sierra.

Sierra was discovered beaten to death February 2nd, near the ancient walls of Istanbul. Her husband, Steve–a city bus driver–had flown to Turkey in late January, after she failed to return home from a solo journey overseas.  Sierra, an amateur photographer, had claimed she wanted to experience Istanbul’s rich culture.

Hearse Carrying Sarai Sierra

Sierra’s body was picked up at John F. Kennedy airport by funeral home employees, after a flight from Istanbul, Turkey.

Steve Sierra made burial arrangements at the funeral home with Sarai’s mother Thursday afternoon, but no family members were there when the body arrived Thursday night. Sierra will be buried late next week.

Published reports from overseas Thursday said a Turkish man questioned by Istanbul police told investigators he had consensual sex with Sierra, the day before she vanished–but had nothing to do with her death.

STATEN ISLAND, New York (PIX11) –  A Turkish man who befriended Staten Island mom, Sarai Sierra, online told authorities in Istanbul he had consensual sex with the married, 33-year old woman, the day before she vanished.

Sierra was found battered to death near ancient walls in Istanbul on Feb. 2.  A Turkish prosecutor told the Daily News the man, Taylan K., is not considered the murder suspect.

Sierra’s iPad and cell phone were missing, when she was discovered with her skull crushed and face badly disfigured. She was supposed to fly home Jan. 21. Sierra’s body arrived at Kennedy Airport in Queens Thursday evening.

STATEN ISLAND, New York (PIX11) –  Emotionally shell-shocked, the husband of the Staten Island mom brutally beaten to death in Turkey emerged from a local funeral home Thursday and told PIX 11 he’s finally broken the news to the couple’s 9- and 11-year-old sons.

PHOTOS SHOT BY MOM KILLED IN TURKEY TO PAY FOR HER FUNERAL

“I told them Mommy got hurt, and she died,” a crestfallen Steven Sierra told PIX11 News outside the Matthew Funeral Home, where he had just made arrangements for Sarai Sierra’s wake next week. The body of the 33-year old amateur photographer was being flown to Kennedy Airport Thursday afternoon from Istanbul.

Sarai Sierra

Sierra flew to Istanbul alone on January 7th, posting photos with her iPad.

She made side trips to Amsterdam and Munich,  before returning to Istanbul January 18th.

MISSING STATEN ISLAND WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN ISTANBUL

She kept in frequent contact with her family, even as overseas reports indicate that she was seen with a “criminal element” in Istanbul.

Sarai Sierra together with her husband Steven.

Sarai Sierra together with her husband Steven.

One report talked about a Turkish man that Sierra met online, several months before her trip. His name is Taylan, and he was taken into custody with 20 other suspects, after Sierra’s battered body was discovered February 2nd, near Istanbul’s ancient walls.  According to one published report, Taylan told Turkish police he had consensual sex with Sarai Sierra, the day before she vanished. He denied involvement in the murder.

Sierra’s husband, a New York City bus driver, had flown to Istanbul January 27th, seeking news about his missing wife.

When asked if police had told him anything about the people his wife encountered, he said, “I’m not reading anything at all. It’s too overwhelming.”

Steven Sierra did thank the Turkish authorities and all the New Yorkers who have shown support.

“There’s a lot of sympathy out there and it’s heartfelt. It’s comforting, to some degree, and appreciated.”

Sierra then said, “God bless you” to reporters and got into his can, to make the sad trip home to see his sons.

(Staten Island, New York)  The brother of a young, Staten Island mother who was found bludgeoned to death in Turkey told Sarai Sierra’s Instagram followers that her photos will pay for her funeral.

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.

Sarai Sierra

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.”

Sarai Sierra Funeral

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.

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