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Family, Friends Bid Final Farewell To S.I. Mother Killed In Turkey

Investigation Continues As More Than A Dozen People Have Been Questioned
Sarai Sierra (credit: Handout)

Sarai Sierra (credit: Handout)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Nearly 200 mourners filled a Staten Island church Friday to bid a final farewell to a mother of two who was murdered while vacationing alone in Turkey.

Images of Sarai Sierra with her husband and two sons, ages 9 and 11, decorated the Christian Pentecostal Church – the same church where she and Steven Diaz-Sierra met and were married.

“My mind is at peace,” Diaz-Sierra said. “I have many questions for the Lord, but despite how tragically this came about, I know in my heart that my wife was in his presence.”

Family and friends at the funeral service also shared their thoughts with CBS 2′s John Slattery.

“It was very touching, very emotional. Very inspirational, very hopeful,” said family friend William Gonzalez.

Father-in-law Richard Sierra spoke glowingly of his son’s wife.

“She was real. She loved her family, loved her children,” he said.

Sierra’s husband also spoke Friday with his 9-year-old at his side.

“Sometimes it takes times like this to wake up…to appreciate a person in our life,” he said.

Reverend John Carlo married the Sierras at the church in 1998 and said he had known Sarai since she was a toddler. With a heavy heart he presided over her funeral service.

“I feel like one of my own children has passed away,” Carlo said. “Some devious persons have snatched away a wife from a husband; they’ve snatched away a mother from children; they’ve snatched away a daughter from parents. How do you describe that?”

Speaking directly to Sierra’s sons, who will grow into men without their mother, Carlo said: “As we grow older, we become our parents. We look like them, we act like them. We talk and walk like them. So when you miss your mom, look in the mirror. She’s part of you.”

Sierra was found beaten to death in Istanbul 12 days after she went missing. Police said Sierra had suffered a fatal blow to the head. She also had been stabbed.

The 33-year-old traveled to Turkey alone on Jan. 7 to explore her passion for photography. She also made a side trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Munich, Germany. It was her first trip outside of the United States.

More than a dozen people have been questioned in the case.

On Friday, Turkey’s state-run agency said police briefly detained the two brothers and a sister of a man wanted for questioning in Sierra’s death. The three were released after their DNA samples were taken and they were questioned about the possible suspect’s whereabouts, the Anadolu agency said.

So far, there have been no arrests. The FBI is assisting in the investigation.

Turkish police have said one of the men questioned in connection to the murder admitted having an affair with Sierra.

“The family really doesn’t want any information right now. They’re just trying to get through the funeral,” family friend Marjorie O’Callaghan Ryan said. “All you have to do is talk to Steve and you can understand the love that is there.”

Sierra will be buried at Silver Mount Cemetery, just a few blocks from the family’s Victory Boulevard home.

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