US citizen Sarai Sierra’s Turkish murderer sentenced to 12 years over sexual assault upon retrial
The 5th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul has ordered seven years and six months of jail time on “sexual assault” charges and four years and two months of imprisonment on “theft” charges for the murderer Ziya Tasalı.
“It is true that I killed the victim, but I did not rape her. I did not have such an intention. I request my acquittal,” Tasalı said in his last hearing.
The court also ruled for the continuation of the perpetrator’s arrest.
Tasalı, also known as “Laz Ziya,” was sentenced to life in prison on charges of murder as well as five years and 10 months for sexual assault and two years and six months for theft on June 24, 2014.
As the Court of Cassation upheld the life sentence, it overturned the decision made for sexual assault and theft, saying a heavier sentence should be imposed for these charges given the nature of the offense.
During his hearing, Tasalı admitted killing Sierra, but refuted any accusations of rape, saying he “only attempted to kiss her.”
Tasalı also claimed that he was “high on drugs” at the time and he killed Sierra with a rock following a physical struggle.
Sierra, 33, left the U.S. for the first time on Jan. 7, 2013 for her ill-fated journey to Turkey, wanting to take pictures in Istanbul. She went missing on Jan. 22.
She had planned to head to Galata Bridge on the day, a well-known tourist destination that spans the Golden Horn waterway.
When she failed to appear in New York on her planned day of return, her husband, Steven Sierra, contacted the owner of the accommodation she was staying at only to learn that her personal belongings along with her passport were still there.
Sierra’s lifeless body was found on Feb. 2, 2013 along Istanbul’s city walls near Sarayburnu beneath Topkapı Palace.