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New York City mom murdered on vacation in Turkey

Sarai Sierra, an amateur photographer, took her first trip abroad to Turkey – alone. She was found dead in Istanbul's historic district. NBC's Michelle Franzen reports.

A New York City mom who went missing while visiting Turkey was killed by a blunt trauma wound to the head, Turkish officials said early Sunday.

The body of Sarai Sierra, 33, who had been missing for almost two weeks, was found Saturday evening dumped against ramparts of an ancient city wall, police said.

Police are reportedly questioning 15 people over her killing.

Mother-of-two Sierra, from Staten Island, had not been in contact with her family since Jan. 21, the day before she was supposed to fly home after a two-week vacation - her first overseas trip.

What happened in the days in which she was missing is not clear, police said.

Her husband, Steven, identified her body late on Saturday at an Istanbul morgue, state broadcaster TRT reported.

Sierra left for Turkey on Jan. 7 – alone, because a friend had dropped out of the trip. She wanted to pursue her photography hobby. An Instagram account she set up over the summer, with images of scenes around New York City, had developed a strong following.  

During her two-week trip abroad, Sierra also visited the Netherlands and Munich, Germany, according to the AP.

Police briefly detained a man last week who exchanged messages with Sierra online. The man had contacted her and made plans to meet with her on a bridge she wanted to photograph, according to Hurriyet. The bridge was a short distance from where Sierra's body was found.

The man was released after being questioned. It was unclear whether he was among the those arrested after the body was found.

Speaking earlier, Steven Sierra said Sarai stayed in close touch with him and their children, ages 9 and 11, by phone and by Skype. After she didn’t arrive at the airport as planned, he and his brother-in-law David Jimenez traveled to Turkey to look for her. 

Isolde Raftery, Staff Writer, NBC News, contributed to this report.


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