Monday, March 3, 2014

Turkey/US: Update--Childhood Friend of Murdered American Sarai Sierra, 33, Marries Steven Sierra

According to, Steven Sierra, 41, the husband of US tourist Sarai Sierra, 33, who was murdered in Istanbul in 2013, recently married Sarai's childhood friend, Hürriyet has learned.

Sarai Sierra, 33, left New York City for the first time in her life on January 7, 2013, to take photographs in Istanbul and went missing in the city on January 21.  

When Sarai Sierra failed to appear at JFK Airport on the date of her planned return, her husband, Steven Sierra, contacted the owner of the accommodations at which his wife had been staying, only to determine that Sarai's passport, phone charger and other belongings were still in the hostel she had rented.

Sarai Sierra’s body was found February 2, 2013, along Istanbul’s city walls near Sarayburnu beneath Topkapı Palace. 

COMMENT:  A Turkish homeless man,  Ziya Tasali, 46, admitted to killing Ms. Sierra, but said he did not rape her, but rather simply attempted to kiss her. 

He later claimed that he had been sniffing paint thinner at the time and that he had killed the American woman with a rock following a physical struggle

After returning to the US with his wife’s body, Steven Sierra told the couple’s two children that their mother had passed away. 

Following a year of mourning, Mr. Sierra reportedly married Sarai Sierra’s childhood friend, Dulce Arrayo, in Staten Island on January 23, 2014, at the very same church at which Sarai Sierra’s funeral ceremony was conducted. 

Ms. Arrayo said she would be happy to raise the Sierra couple’s children, Sion and Silas, with that of her own child, Angel.

As is well-known from previous press coverage, the Sierras were seemingly having marital difficulty in early 2013 which was obviously exasperated by Sarai's travel to Turkey where her inexperience abroad resulted in her meeting people that posed a threat to her. 

According to Istanbul police, Turkish authorities have charged a homeless man with killing Staten Island-based US tourist Sarai Sierra, who fought him off after he attempted to rape her.

Even though Tasali confessed to killing Sarai near Istanbul’s ancient city walls in January 2013, there were numerous leads, including a man that Sarai had communicated with online and may very well have been intimate with that may not have been thoroughly interrogated given the ease with which Tasali confessed to murdering Sarai.

Tasali faces life in prison. Whether the homeless man actually killed Ms. Sierra or not may never be fully known.

Sarai Sierra claimed that she went to Istanbul to follow her love of  photography, yet it is not fully understood as to whether a serious photographer's camera was ever found among her personal belongings, other than a Droid mobile phone and an iPad, both of which had been stolen.

Sarai, who apparently filed for bankruptcy in 2005, had been unemployed for several years but, apparently was employed part-time in a chiropractor’s office before her untimely death.

Typically, married couples rarely file for bankruptcy individually, which could be a basis of tension within the Sierra marriage.

Steven Sierra was employed as a New York City bus driver.

Sarai's parents, Dennis and Betzaida Jimenez, also declared bankruptcy in 2005.

Being a semi-professional photographer myself, few serious photographers would take creative photographs with either a cell phone or an iPad, but rather would lean toward a digital SLR.

Traveling abroad is never a useful way of mitigating marital problems. If anything, it only further complicates the threats and further exposes one or both partners to increased vulnerability.  

Rather than Sarai flying off to Istanbul to escape a troubled marriage, the couple might very well have been better served through medication and talk therapy. 

Sarai's unexplained visits to the Netherlands and Germany have never been fully explained, as it is also possible that she was being used as a "mule" for drug traffickers, given the fact that both Sarai and her parents had filed for bankruptcy in 2005.

So many unexplained circumstances remain in the facts leading up to Sarai's death. Perhaps the real truth will never be known.