Sarai Sierra Missing: N.Y. mother of two disappears while on vacation in Turkey, official says
(CBS/AP) ANKARA, Turkey - Istanbul police are now scanning CCTV security camera footage to trace a New York woman who disappeared while vacationing alone in the city, an official said Monday.
Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two, arrived in Istanbul on Jan. 7 in her first trip outside the U.S. Her family was last in touch with her on Jan. 21, the day she was supposed to start her journey home. But she hasn't been heard from since.
A police official speaking under condition of anonymity said authorities are reviewing security camera footage from around the neighborhood of the hostel she was staying.
Sierra's husband and brother left for Turkey on Sunday night to help the search. Her brother David Jimenez told The Associated Press that he had no return date planned.
"I don't want to come home without my sister," he said.
Prior to her disappearance, Sierra told relatives she planned to take photographs at a tourist destination. Her mother Betzaida Jimenez said Sierra planned to head to the Galata Bridge, a well-known tourist destination that spans the Golden Horn waterway, to take some photographs.
Sierra was then supposed to begin traveling home and was scheduled to arrive in New York City on Tuesday afternoon, her mother said. Sierra's father went to pick her up at the airport and "waited there for hours" with no sign of his daughter.
Sierra planned to go on the trip with a friend, but ended up going by herself when the friend couldn't make it. She was looking forward to exploring her hobby of photography, her family said.
"I was nervous. I didn't want my daughter to go," Jimenez said, but the trip passed smoothly with Sierra in regular contact with her family and friends through text messaging and phone calls.
"She would always call and let us know, `This is what I did today,"' Jimenez said.
When she didn't show up in New York City, Sierra's husband called the hostel where she was staying, David Jimenez said. The owner of the hostel checked her room and saw that her passport, equipment chargers and other items were still there.
"It looked like she was just stepping out," he said.
The family has been in touch with authorities in their efforts to find her. Sierra's children, ages 11 and 9, do not know their mother is missing, her brother said.
Crime in Turkey is generally low and Istanbul is a relatively safe city for travelers, according to the AP. The Galata and the nearby Galata Bridge areas have been gentrified and are home to fish restaurants, cafes and boutiques. But there are areas where women would be advised to avoid going alone at night.
Betzaida Jimenez said the situation has "been a nightmare."
"I'm forcing myself to get up because I have to get up," she said.
But she said the tight-knit family was holding onto their faith.
"We're praying and trusting God that she's safe somewhere and we're going to find her," she said.
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