ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
The FBI is playing a significant role in the investigation into the death of a New York City woman found dead in Istanbul while on a vacation, a U.S. congressman has said.
Rep. Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent, said U.S. investigators were invited by Turkish authorities to assist as they try to find out what happened to Sarai Sierra, The Associated Press reported Feb. 4.
Grimm and Sierra’s parents, Betzaida and Dennis Jimenez, said the family’s immediate concern was repatriating Sierra’s body to the U.S. The Istanbul police will collect blood, DNA and saliva samples from 21 people who testified earlier about the death of Sierra, who had been missing since Jan. 21.
Sierra’s body was found in Sarayburnu, 13 days after she went missing, with evidence of head injuries. Her jewelry was still on her, but her tablet computer and smart phone were gone. A blanket was found nearby, suggesting Sierra may have been taken from another crime scene to Sarayburnu. The police have been searching for the tablet and the mobile phone with detectors in the surrounding area.
The samples are expected to be collected Feb. 5 upon a demand by Istanbul prosecutor Hüseyin Kaplan, Doğan news agency reported. The prosecutor had listened earlier in the day to Sierra’s husband Steven Sierra and her brother David Jimenez, who came to Turkey to search for their lost relative. The family collected Sierra’s body later on Feb. 4 from the Forensic Medicine Institute following a post-mortem.
Her body was taken to a morgue at an Armenian Apostolic church, Surp Yerrortutyun, before being sent to the U.S.
Preliminary autopsy results from Sierra’s body suggest the cause of death was a single blow to the head. There was no evidence of sexual assault, according to initial reports. However, the results of the full autopsy report will reportedly be announced in three months. Crime scene investigators arrived on the scene early on Feb. 4, accompanied by security officials and canine units.
The Fatih Municipality cleared the bushes from the area to make the search easier for officials, according to Anatolia news agency. Some 260 policemen searched for Sierra using Istanbul’s security cameras after she was reported missing on Jan. 25.
Sierra’s mother said her two grandsons did not yet know what had happened to their mother. “Their father is going to talk to them when he comes back, and we’ll all be there to support him,” she told NBC’s Today show on Feb. 5.
"I wanted to see my daughter alive. At least we have closure. At least they found her," mom said in tears. "There are some people who are still waiting for their loved ones," the New York Daily News quoted her as saying.
Sierra's sister could not join them "because she's too broken. All she does is cry." "I wanted to see my daughter, her beautiful smile. She was full of life. She loved her children, her husband. She was my friend. We did many things together."
"We traveled together. This was the first trip she took by herself, taking photos and photos she took," Sierra's mother said. She thanked the Turkish police and an association in Istanbul for missing loved ones for sharing Sierra's photo while she was missing. Her brother's church also helped fund the trip to bring her back, mom said.
Sierra's father, Dennis, recalled when going to pick her up from the airport. "I didn’t want her to go, but she wanted to go because this was an opportunity for her to sight see and to pursue her photography hobby," he said.
"Turkey was a land of rich culture and ancient history. She was very fascinated with that." He said she kept them abreast of every side trip and move she made and talked daily on Skype.