Updated 02/04/2013 10:50 PM
Family Members Of S.I. Woman Slain In Turkey Seek Money For Funeral
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The mother of the Staten Island woman killed while on vacation in Turkey, and the friend who was supposed to have accompanied her on the trip, told reporters on Monday that they are working on finding the money to bring her body home.
Speaking with reporters in Stapleton, Betzaida Jimenez said her daughter Sarai Sierra was a fun loving person and a caring mom.
Jimenez also said her grandchildren had not yet been told of their mother's death. They are currently staying with family friends.
Sierra, a 33-year-old amateur photographer, was traveling by herself in Turkey last month on an excursion her family says was meant to be the trip of a lifetime.
She was due back on January 21, but 12 days later her body was found near ancient city ruins in a low-income area of Istanbul.
Turkish media reports say prosecutors are looking to get DNA samples from 21 people they have questioned in connection with her death.
Right now, Sierra's loved ones are working on finding the money to bring her body home while also dealing with their grief.
Remembering the last time she saw her daughter, Jimenez said, "I said to her, 'I want to say a prayer for you. Let's pray together for your safety and that you have a safe trip.' And we hugged each other and that was — then we spoke through Skype. And just the thought that I will never be able to hug her again, it's hard. It's very hard.
Jimenez continued, "I wanted to see my daughter alive, but at least they found her. At least we have closure."
Magdalena Rodriguez, Sierra's longtime friend, said she backed out traveling to Turkey with Sierra at the last minute because of financial concerns, but now regrets not going.
"There's always something that reminds you of her, something funny. She was really witty," Rodriguez said.
Sierra's family members said they were not yet sure when her body will be returned to the United States. They enlisted the help of Rep. Michael Grimm to help pay for the cost of transporting her body.
Grimm, who visited Jimenez and Rodriguez on Monday, said, "My office is looking into every possible funding option that there is. We think that we're going to be successful between donations that are going to the church and my office is even going to make a donation. And we're going to do whatever we have to do to bring her home."
Sierra's husband, Steven, flew to Turkey with her brother, and family members said the pair will not return until they can bring Sierra home.
For make donations to the Sierra family, visit www.apostlesnyc.com.