(NEW YORK) — The two young sons of slain New York mom Sarai Sierra are under the impression that their father has gone to Turkey to bring their mother home — alive.
Sierra, whose battered body was found near a highway in Istanbul over the weekend, was the mother of two boys aged 9 and 11.
Steven Sierra, who went to Istanbul in search of his wife after she disappeared nearly two weeks ago, told his children that he was going to Turkey to bring their mom home.
“The father will be speaking to them and it’s something that’s going to be hard and he’s going to be talking to them when he comes back,” Betsy Jimenez, the mother of Sarai Sierra, said Monday during a family news conference.
State Representative Michael Grimm said Steven Sierra’s biggest concern is telling his children that mom’s not coming home.
“It’s going to be the hardest thing he’s ever going to have to do in his life,” said Grimm, who added that the Staten Island family isn’t sure when Steven Sierra will be able to bring home his wife’s body.
An autopsy was completed Sunday on Sarai Sierra, 33, but results aren’t expected for three months. Turkish officials, however, said she was killed by at least one fatal blow to her head.
A casket holding the Staten Island mother was carried through alleyways lined with spice and food stalls to a church, where the casket remained on Monday.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Turkish police are speaking to a local man who was supposed to meet Sierra the day she disappeared, but he said she never showed.
After an intense search for Sierra that lasted nearly two weeks, her body was found Saturday near the ruins of some ancient city walls and a highway. 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, Istanbul Police Chief Huseyin Capkin said.
Sierra’s body was taken to a morgue, Capkin said, and was identified by her husband.
It did not appear she had been raped or was involved in any espionage or trafficking, Capkin said.
Betsy Jimenez said Monday that her family has many unanswered questions, such as what happened to her daughter after she left her hotel room to go and take photographs of a famous bridge.
“They’re still investigating so they might think it might be a robbery, but they’re not sure,” said Jimenez.
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.
Dennis Jimenez, Sierra’s father, told reporters Monday that he didn’t want her to go on the trip.
“I didn’t want her to go. But, she wanted to go because this was an opportunity for her to sightsee and pursue her photography hobby because Turkey was a land rich with culture and ancient history and she was fascinated with that,” said Jimenez.
While in Istanbul, Sierra would Skype with her family and friends daily, telling them about how amazing the culture was.
Sierra’s best friend Maggie Rodriguez told ABC News that she was forced to pull out of the trip at the last minute because she couldn’t afford it. That’s why Sierra traveled alone.
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.
The investigation has revealed Sierra had left her passport, clothes, phone chargers and medical cards in her room at a hostel in Beyoglu, Turkey.
“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 said Sunday it is in contact with Sierra’s 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.”
Sierra’s family also thanked the Turkish people for posting their daughter’s picture and helping with the search.
“I thank God that we were able to find her and that we’re able to have her here with us. I just keep asking everyone to continue to pray for us,” said Betsy Jimenez.
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