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Sarai Sierra Update: Ziya Tasali charged with murder, allegedly confessed to killing NYC mom in Turkey

Police officers escort Ziya Tasali, a Turkish man charged with killing Sarai Sierra, in Istanbul, Turkey on March 18, 2013.
AP
(CBS/AP) ANKARA, Turkey - Ziya Tasali, a 46-year-old man suspected of killing Sarai Sierra, a New York City woman, in Istanbul, was charged on Monday with murder and ordered to remain in custody until his trial, the state-run news agency reported.

PICTURES: N.Y. mom found dead in Turkey

Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of three, was found dead near Istanbul's ancient city walls on Feb. 2, 12 days after her family reported her missing. She was vacationing alone in the city and exploring her photography hobby. She had planned the trip to Turkey with a friend, but that person canceled for financial reasons.

Authorities said Sierra died of a blow to the head.

Tasali, the 46-year-old suspect, was caught Sunday near the Turkey-Syria border after being on the run for more than a month, mostly while hiding in Syria, officials said.

Sierra's brother, David Jimenez, welcomed the charge filed against Tasali. "It's what we were hoping for. They've done a good job investigating this, and we really appreciate it," Jimenez said in an interview with The Associated Press in New York City.

There were conflicting reports about Tasali's arrest, with Turkey's interior minister saying he was detained as he entered Turkey, and the Istanbul police chief suggesting he was nabbed in Syria in an operation by Syrian rebels in cooperation with Turkish officials.

The suspect was taken to Istanbul, where a court questioned him and charged him on Monday with murder, according to the state-run Anadolu agency. A trial date will be scheduled after prosecutors prepare an indictment detailing the charges.

The maximum penalty for murder in Turkey is life imprisonment.

Anadolu reported that Tasali - described as a homeless scrap paper collector - allegedly admitted while being questioned by prosecutors that he attacked Sierra while under the influence of vapors from inhaling paint thinner, then fled the scene.

Sierra disappeared the day she was due to fly home, and her body was found hidden near the remnants of the city walls.

Istanbul police identified Tasali as a prime suspect in the slaying after blood and DNA samples extracted from the victim's nails closely matched those taken from his siblings.

Complete coverage of Sarai Sierra on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

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