STATEN ISLAND, NY (MorichesDaily) — The Staten Island mother who disappeared while traveling alone in Turkey was found dead in Istanbul Saturday, according to the Turkish state-run news agency.
The Anadolu Agency reported that residents discovered a woman’s body near ancient city walls of the Fatih district, a historic and working-class area in Istanbul. Police identified the body as that of Sarai Sierra, a mother of two from Staten Island.
The private news broadcaster NTV reported that she had been stabbed to death, and that police had identified her by her driver’s license, according to The Associated Press, although another news agency said it appeared she had died of a blow to the head.
Sarai Sierra was known as a devoted mother and wife. Her family and friends held out hope that she would be found alive.
At least nine people were detained at the crime scene, police sources told Hurriyet Daily News in Turkey.
Two of those detained were women, the AP reported.
Sierra was last heard from on January 21st, the day she was scheduled to fly home. Turkish police say her body was found near a popular tourist area.
Sierra had not been in contact with her family since Jan. 21, the day before she was supposed to fly home after a two-week vacation.
She left for Turkey on Jan. 7 – alone, because a friend had dropped out of the trip. She wanted to pursue her photography hobby.
An Instagram account she set up over the summer, with images of scenes around New York City, had developed a strong following.
“I’m completely devastated. Hopefully, faith will take us through.”
Esther Santisi knew Sierra since she was a little girl. Sierra’s family and friends had held out hope she would be found alive.
Sierra, whose children are 9 and 11, had traveled alone to Istanbul on January 7 to explore her photography hobby.
It was the first time Sierra had ever traveled alone overseas.
“She was a doll. A wonderful person, I can’t imagine how her husband feels right now,” said Santisi.
Sierra’s husband and brother traveled to Istanbul to search for her.
Video images of Sierra in an Istanbul mall are the last known images of her alive. She’s seen with her long hair tucked under her hat riding down an escalator, sitting down to eat, and walking.
In every image, she’s by herself.
However police say while in Turkey, Sierra had exchanged emails with a Turkish man who claims he never met her.
The man was released after being questioned. It was unclear whether he was among the 10 arrested after the body was found.