Sarai Sierra, American Tourist, Killed by Blow to Head, Turkish Police Say
(NEW YORK) -- A New York City woman vacationing alone in Istanbul was killed by at least one fatal blow to her head, Turkish officials said Sunday.
The body of Sarai Sierra, 33, was was identified by her husband, Steven Sierra, in a morgue, Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin said Sunday.
After an intense search that lasted nearly two weeks, the body of Sarai Sierra was found near the ruins of some ancient city walls and a highway on Saturday. Sierra was wearing the same outfit she was seen wearing on surveillance footage taken at a food court and on a street the day she vanished, Capkin said. A blanket was found nearby.
It did not appear she had been raped or was involved in any espionage or trafficking, Capkin said.
At least nine people have been held for questioning, including two women, as investigators try to unravel what happened to the mother of two.
Turkish police are reportedly speaking to a local man who was supposed to meet Sierra the day she went missing, but he said she never showed, local media reported.
Sierra's disappearance nearly two weeks ago sparked a massive search by Turkish authorities. Missing person cases are rare in the country.
Sierra, who had traveled to Istanbul on Jan. 7 to practice her photography hobby, was last heard from on Jan. 21, the day she was due to board a flight home to New York City.
Further investigation revealed she had left her passport, clothes, phone chargers and medical cards in her room at a hostel in Beyoglu, Turkey.
Her husband, Steven Sierra, and brother, David Jimenez, traveled to Istanbul last Sunday to meet with American and Turkish officials and push the search forward.
"It was her first time outside of the United States, and every day while she was there she pretty much kept in contact with us, letting us know what she was up to, where she was going, whether it be through texting or whether it be through video chat, she was touching base with us," Steven Sierra told ABC News last week.
The U.S. State Department expressed its condolences to Sierra's family and friends Sunday, and said it is in contact with her family and is providing consular assistance.
"Out of respect for the family's privacy, we have no further comment," the State Department said in a statement. "We thank the Turkish government for all their efforts to locate Mrs. Sierra and we will remain in close contact with them as they continue their investigation."
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