News

Missing Staten Island Woman Found Dead In Istanbul; Police Detain 11

Sarai Sierra (credit: Sierra family handout)

Sarai Sierra (credit: Sierra family handout)

ISTANBUL (CBSNewYork/AP) — A missing Staten Island woman has been found dead in Istanbul, Turkey, according to a Turkish news agency.

Sarai Sierra, 33, had been missing since Jan. 21 after going on vacation alone in Istanbul.

The Anadolu Agency said residents discovered the body of a woman near some ancient city walls in a low-income district and that police later identified it as Sierra’s.

Police in Istanbul have detained eleven people in connection with Sierra’s death.

In its report, the private NTV news channel said Sierra was stabbed to death. It said police identified her through her driver license.

As 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported, virtually everyone in the Staten Island apartment building on Victory Boulevard where Sierra lived knew of her disappearance.

Many of the neighbors took the news badly upon learning that Sierra was found stabbed to death in a bad section of Istanbul where she was photographing historical sites.

Teresa was shocked.

“A happy family,” she said. “You know, very loving and kind; respectful. I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”

Neighbor Luis Colon told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin that his thoughts were with the family.

“it’s tragic, you can’t even go on vacation anymore and feel safe. I feel bad for her whole family. I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” he said.

One family said their son went to school with Sierra’s children, and wondered what would come next for them.

On Friday, police official in Istanbul said police had questioned a man who had been in contact with Sierra during her stay in the city. The official refused to identify him or provide further details on the arrest. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to reporters without authorization.

It was not clear whether he was one of the eleven people arrested.

Turkish news reports said Sierra had arranged to meet her contact on a bridge she planned to photograph on the day she went missing. It was not known if the meeting had taken place.

Sierra left for Istanbul on Jan. 7 to explore her photography hobby and made a side trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Munich, Germany.

Her family last heard from her on Jan. 21, when she was supposed to start her journey home, but she never checked into her flight.

Before she went missing, Sierra had been in regular contact with her family and friends and told relatives she planned to take photographs at the Galata Bridge.

Sierra’s husband, Steven, and brother, David Jimenez, traveled to Istanbul to help in the search. Sierra’s children are 9 and 11.

On Saturday Congressman Michael Grimm offered his condolences to Sierra’s grieving family.

“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Sarai Sierra’s death,” he said. Adding that, “Today’s news is truly a heartbreaking tragedy.”

Grimm also commended the Turkish government as well as the State Department and other law enforcement officials for their efforts in locating Sierra.

Sierra had planned to go on the trip with a friend, but went alone when the friend couldn’t make it. Her belongings, including her passport, were found in her hostel room.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)