New York tourist Sarai Sierra murdered in Istanbul

    9:12 AM, Feb 4, 2013   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CNN) -- Istanbul's police chief says an American tourist, missing for nearly two weeks, died from a blow to the head. The body of Sarai Sierra was found Saturday in Istanbul.

    It was originally reported she may have been stabbed to death. The woman was last seen Jan. 20, the day before she was to have returned to New York after a solo picture-taking trip to Turkey, Germany and Amsterdam.

    Turkish police made the grim discovery on Saturday; a woman's body, hidden behind the old stone walls of an ancient city. Within hours, police identified her as Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two and a native of Staten Island, New York.

    Sierra had been missing for more than a week after disappearing during what was supposed to be her first foreign vacation. Turkish police suspect she's been murdered. Istanbul police director Huseyin Capkin says, "It has been determined that she was killed with a blow to the head...we need more time to investigate. It is not right to say anything about the ongoing interrogation of detained people. She was a tourist, traveling alone."

    The last known images of Sierra are from security cameras that caught her on the night of Jan. 20 walking alone inside an Instanbul shopping mall.

    Sierra flew from New York to Turkey on Jan. 7th solo because a friend cancelled coming along at the last minute. Sierra was an amateur photographer who shared her photos of Istanbul's mosques and skyline with friends she met on Instagram.

    Sierra is believed to have met some of these Instagram acquaintances during her stay in Turkey and during a short side trip to Amsterdam. Sierra's husband Steven sounded the alarm after she failed to board her flight back to New York on Jan. 21.

    Days later, Steven and Sarai's brother David Jimenez flew to Istanbul to help Turkish police with the investigation. In an interview with CNN last week, it was clear Steven, a New York City transit worker, was beginning to fear for the worst. He says, "Along with her missing, you're hoping that she's okay wherever she's at. That she's not hurting. That she's not cold. That she's being fed. That she's not consumed with fear."

    The shocking news of Sierra's death devastated her family who have tried to protect her two sons from news of their mother's disappearance. As friends and family grieve in New York, police in Turkey have an urgent question to answer: Who killed Sarai Sierra?

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