The children of Serai Sierra will be the last to know their mother’s fate. The family has decided to wait until their father Steven returns from Turkey, with Serai’s body, to tell the children.
“Of course I really just want to hug her again, but it is a comfort to finally have closure,” said Serai’s mother Betzeida Jiminez at a media briefing held in her friend’s Staten Island home. Her 33-year-old daughter disappeared nearly two weeks ago. She inexplicably missed her flight home, leaving the Istanbul hostel she was renting filled with belongings like her passport and phone chargers. This weekend her body was found, possibly dumped, near a popular bridge. She had been bludgeoned to death. Jiminez spoke with hesitation, the tears evident in her voice, and praised her faith as being the main support to get her through.
33-year-old Serai is survived by a brother and sister, and both parents as well. Her father Dennis faced one of the toughest questions about whether he supported his daughter’s first international trip, taken alone. “I kinda didn’t want her to go. But this was an opportunity for her to sightsee and pursue her photography hobby. Turkey is a land rich of ancient culture and she wanted so badly to see it.
Even Serai’s closest friend chose to face questions from the media. Maddie Rogers has known Serai for 25 years and had planned to take the three-week trip with her, including stops in Munich and Amsterdam. She pulled out at the last minute, citing financial issues. One reporter asked if she now regretted the decision. Rogers took her time to answer the question, summoning her composure. In a small voice choked with tears she spoke. “Of course.”
Representative Michael Grimm has acted as a liaison for the family, working through diplomatic channels to aid in the investigation oversees. He says the FBI is now interviewing suspects in Istanbul as well, as many as a dozen, and scouring surveillance video captured from the many cameras that ring that city. He says he’s also approaching New York City’s School’s Chancellor Dennis Walcott about at home schooling support for Serai’s two young sons, ages 9 and 11. “We are focused on getting Serai home at this point,” said Grimm.
The family has yet to make funeral arrangements but hopes Serai will be flown back to the U.S. by Wednesday.