The New York woman was found dead in Istanbul she went missing since January 21st, 2013 on a solo trip to Istanbul and then found apparently with a fatal blow to her head police said on Sunday. Her body was discovered in a rundown section of the city less than a mile from the storied Topkapi Palace.
The 33-year-old woman mother of two 9 and 11 was in regular contact with family and friends, and had told them she would visit Galata Bridge, which spans Istanbul’s Golden Horn waterway, to take photos.
She said she was going to Istanbul to pursue her love of photography, yet she traveled without a camera. And her travel itinerary continues to draw scrutiny.
Police are trying to retrace her steps and find out where she stayed on those jaunts and what motivated them. Turkish newspapers reported Sierra had contact in Amsterdam with someone she met online and may have stayed with him or her.
At lease nine suspects have been detained for questioning and officials on side told the media that two of them were women.
Sierra’s husband, Steven, and brother, David Jimenez, travelled to Istanbul to help in the search. Sierra’s mother, Betzaida Jimenez, said she couldn’t talk when reached in New York. Sierra’s remains were identified Sunday by her husband Steven Sierra, 40, police chief Huseyin Capkin said. And Sarai’s husband and her brother, David Jimenez, won’t leave Istanbul without her, a family spokeswoman said.
Police were able to identify her by the driver’s license found on her body.
The motive for her murder is still unclear. Sierra was first reported missing after she did not arrive at Newark Airport in New Jersey on the day she was scheduled to come home.
When she didn’t show, her husband called the place where she had been staying, David Jimenez said. The owner of the hostel checked her room and saw that her passport, equipment chargers and other items were still there.
“It looked like she was just stepping out,” he said.
“She would always call and let us know, ‘This is what I did today,’” Jimenez said.
Turkish authorities determined that the woman had corresponded with a mysterious man known only as Taylan prior to her death. Sierra was scheduled to meet the man near the Galata Tower. He told the Turkish news outlet Vatan that the two crossed paths on her trip but that she failed to meet him at the Galata Tower as planned.
Shortly after her body was discovered, a woman came forward and told police she had seen a white car parked near the city walls as she was driving there the night of Jan. 29, Anadolu reported. She said a man was trying to remove “something” from the car.
“At that moment, I noticed a woman’s hand,” Anadolu quoted the woman as telling reporters after talking with police. The agency said she declined to give her name.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department confirmed Sierra’s death in Istanbul, thanked Turkey’s government for its extensive efforts to locate her body and said the investigation of what happened to her would continue.
“We are also appreciative of the many expressions of sympathy received from the Turkish people,” the State Department said in its statement.