Sarai Sierra went missing on a trip to Turkey. / Family photo via AP
ISTANBUL - A New York mother of two was found dead Saturday evening almost two weeks after she was reported missing, Turkish police told USA TODAY.
"It's her," a police official said when asked whether the body belonged to Sarai Sierra, before quickly hanging up without identifying himself. Turkish police have not returned repeated follow-up calls.
The Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that the body of a woman with stab wounds to the abdomen was found at the foot of the ramparts of the city walls in the Sarayburnu district of Istanbul. Police found Sierra's driver's license on the body.
Turkish media reported that Sierra's head was crushed and that security camera footage the police had examined for days led to the discovery of her body.
Detectives scanned through footage of about 1,000 security cameras to trace her movements and were eventually able to narrow down the last places she visited - they spotted her on the Galata Bridge on the day she disappeared, and also in the Sarayburnu district where they ended up finding her body. That's where the ancient walls of the city are, as well as Topaki Palace, major tourist sites.
Sierra, 33, on her "dream" trip abroad, was supposed to return to New York on Jan. 22 after two weeks in Turkey. She disappeared after last talking to her family on Jan. 21, when she was supposed to meet a man she had been chatting with for months online at Galata Bridge, on the Bosporus.
Turkish media reported police were interrogating 13 individuals detained in connection with the case.
On Friday, police said they had taken a man known only by his online handle "Taylan" into custody for questioning. They did not elaborate on whether he had been charged. It is unclear whether "Taylan" is included in the 13 detained Saturday.
Sierra may have been killed somewhere else, then carried to the site where she was found, according to Turkish media reports.
Sierra's husband, Steven Sierra, and brother, David Jimenez, arrived in Istanbul last Monday to look for her, meeting with police and U.S. Embassy officials and giving police access to her online accounts. Steven Sierra told USA TODAY by phone Wednesday that he was having difficulty holding on to hope.
"To be honest, as a human, I am scared, especially when I think about what could be going on now with my loved one," he said.
Sarai Sierra, an avid photographer, had wanted to go abroad to develop her photography skills. She took side trips to Amsterdam and Munich, posting her photos online on Instagram, before disappearing.
"She always knew she wanted to go overseas," said Maggie Rodriguez, Sierra's close friend who had planned to join her friend on the trip but backed out for financial reasons. "She knew she wanted to do a European trip. Whereabouts wasn't always set in stone, but she knew she wanted to go over to Europe, at least once in her life, to check out the sites and embrace the culture for herself."
Contributing: Jabeen Bhatti and Ruby Russell in Berlin
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
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