January 21 was supposed to be Sarai Sierra’s last day in Istanbul.The 33-year-old NYC native was ready to go back home after a two-week long trip through Europe and Turkey. However, on January 22, Sierra never made it to her flight and her belongings, including her passport and medical papers, remained in her hostel room. The sudden disappearance of Sierra left little trace for investigators who combed through hours of surveillance tapes desperate for clues. The rigorous search for Sarai Sierra tragically ended February 2 after her brutally mangled body was found near the ruins of ancient city walls. She was wearing the same outfit seen on the pixilated CCTV footage footage taken thirteen days earlier. Although the search is over, the American tourists’ murder is still shrouded in mystery as new developments connecting Sierra to a "shady" crowd are arising . Here's what we know about this tragic story.
1.The Motive Behind the Murder was not Rape or Robbery
Preliminary autopsy reveals that Sierra was not raped. Robbery did not seem to be the primary goal as gold earrings, necklace and bracelet remained on the body. The only thing that appears to be missing is her purse that contained her Ipad.
2. Sierra Was Seen with "Sketchy Characters" Before Her Death
A source familiar with the murder investigation told the New York Post, that Sierra may have been hanging out with 'a criminal element' while on her trip. A tipster has told Istanbul police that Sierra was seen with a group of "rogue hustlers known for harassing women and tourists". 21 people have been detained for questioning in Istanbul. Two of these individuals were women. Prosecutors were given permission to obtain blood and DNA samples for further investigation. Little else is known since officials are not authorized to inform reporters on the case.
3. Turkish Man Claims to Have Had Sex With Sierra the Day Before her Murder
Sierra met, Taylan K, Turkish man and photography-buff through social media sites before her trip. Taylan, who was interviewed at length by Istanbul police in the disappearance and killing Sierra admitted he had consensual sex with her the day before she went missing. His is one of 21 other DNA samples that are being processed.
4. FBI no longer believes Sierra was in Turkey to "Take Pictures".
FBI agents who have been investigating Sierra's case no longer believe her family's claims that she had travelled to Turkey to practice photography. For one thing, Sierra did not take any camera equipment and took pictures with her Droid or Ipad.
5. Sierra's Travels to Holland and Germany Are Suspected to be Linked to Drug Trafficking
Sierra traveled to Turkey Jan 7 but flew to Amsterdam on Jan 15 and Munich on the Jan 16 before returning to Istanbul Jan 19. Sierra had originally planned to stay in Turkey for three weeks but posted online that she had to cut her trip short after 12 days. Authorities are looking into possibility of drug trafficking.
6. Sierra Family has Financial Woes
Sarai Sierra's family had to sell Sierra's photographs website in order to pay for her funeral expenses. Sierra posted various pictures of her travels under her instagram profile ‘MEMYSELF_SARAI. Her account has over 6,000 followers.Two churches raised money to send Sierra's husband, a city bus driver, to Turkey after her disappearance was announced. Records show that Sierra had been unemployed and declared bankruptcy in 2005. All this details lead police to believe that Sierra may have been trafficking drugs for cash.
7. The Cause of Death Was a Single Blow to the Head
Although her body showed signs of stab wounds, Istanbul forensics medical teams determined that Sierra was killed with a single blow to the head. The vicious head wound left Sierra "unrecognizable", according to a worker at the morgue the body was transported to. Full results of her autopsy will be revealed in three months.
8. She Was Not Killed Where She Was Found
Investigators believe that a blanket found near Sierra's corpse was used to transport the body. This reveals there is a secondary crime scene.
9. She Fought For Her Life
There is physical evidence that she fought her attacker. Ertan Ericikit, district police chief, has stated "There were bruises on her body that looked like they were the result of a struggle," Police are using DNA evidence found under her fingernails to find the murderer. According to the Associated Press DNA samples have been obtained from 21 suspects.
10. She Leaves Behind a Husband and Two Children
Sierra left behind a 9 and 11 year old. They have not been informed of their mothers’ death. Her husband and brother traveled to Turkey after her disappearance to help with rescue efforts. They identified the body at the morgue.
Sierra's Body is Being Transported Back to Staten Island. Casket is scheduled to make its trip to Seria's home Feb 7.