ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities finished an autopsy Monday on a New York City woman found dead in Istanbul and submitted DNA samples from it to a crime lab for testing, Turkey's state-run media reported.
Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two, went missing Jan. 21 while on a solo vacation in Istanbul. Her body was found 12 days later, near the remnants of some ancient city walls. Police said she had suffered a fatal blow to the head.
Police on Monday were still scouring the area where the body was found for clues, with the help of sniffer dogs, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The Milliyet newspaper said a forensic medicine lab will examine samples from Sierra's fingernails as well as hair and other samples from a blanket found near her body. It said some nail scrapings suggest she may have tried to fight off her attacker.
More than a dozen people were questioned in the case but most of them have been released, Milliyet reported. It said three people were still being held for questioning. Sierra, whose children are 9 and 11, had left for Istanbul on Jan. 7 to explore her photography hobby and made side trips to Amsterdam, Netherlands and Munich, Germany. She was to have traveled with a friend, but the friend cancelled.
Turkish police had set up a special unit to find Sierra and her husband, Steven, traveled to Istanbul last week to help in the search. Sierra was in regular contact with friends and relatives during her vacation and had told them on Jan. 21 — the day she was due to board her plane back home — that she would visit Galata Bridge, which spans Istanbul's Golden Horn waterway, to take photos. She never checked into her flight.
Sierra's mother, Betsy Jimenez, said her two grandsons did not 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 Monday
Jimenez said it was Sierra's first overseas visit. "She wanted to go take pictures of the history of the place... and she was interested in taking pictures of the bridges. She was fascinated with the bridges," Jimenez said.