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Blow To The Head Blamed For Staten Island Woman's Death In Turkey

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A fatal blow to the head was the cause of death for a Staten Island woman who had only wanted to make a journey to Istanbul, Turkey, to take photographs.

As CBS 2's Steve Langford reported, the body of Sarai Sierra, 33, will be flown back to New York once forensic experts in Turkey have completed an autopsy.

But the police chief in Istanbul said blunt force trauma to the head was the cause of death for Sierra. She also had been stabbed.

Fifteen people have been detained for questioning in the mysterious and heartbreaking case of the murder of
the wife and mother of two.

"She was just a mother who had a hobby, and she wanted to fulfill her dream," said the Rev. John Rocco Carlo of Christian Pentecostal Church in Staten Island.

The church was where Sarai and Steven Sierra were married 15 years ago, and where a funeral service for Sarai Sierra now may be held.

Carlo had his doubts about the wisdom of taking the trip at all.

"I mean, to go to a country that is having problems, alone, is not a good idea," Carlo said.

Carlo has also known Sierra and her family long enough to be well aware that the trip was not very popular from the beginning.

What's more, Carlo has an especially well-informed perspective on the tragedy, as he is a retired NYPD captain.

"I'm waiting to see what the evidence comes in as to what really happened, and I don't think it will be a pretty story," Carlo said.

It will all hit particularly hard on Sierra's two young children, who still do not know why their mother is not home. That explanation has been left to Steven Sierra, when he returns from Turkey with their mother's body.

"Not until the father gets home, you know, will he be able to let them know everything that's going on," said Sierra family friend Marjorie Ryan.

Meanwhile at a congregation in East Harlem where the Sierras used to worship, there was a tearful prayer Sunday for the family the pastor's daughter knew well.

"I have a teenager and a son myself, and I don't know, I don't know how I would explain this to them," said Nina Rivera.

The circumstances surrounding the murder of a young mother of two on her first ever trip to a foreign country to take pictures by herself is likely to remain a mystery for some time.

Sierra left for Istanbul on Jan. 7 to explore her photography hobby and made a side trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Munich, Germany.

Her family last heard from her on Jan. 21, when she was supposed to start her journey home, but she never checked into her flight.

Before she went missing, Sierra had been in regular contact with her family and friends and told relatives she planned to take photographs at the Galata Bridge.

Sierra's mother and father were expected to speak publicly for the first time Monday about the haunting death of their daughter.

Do you think the trip was a bad idea like the Rev. Carlo does? Please leave your comments below...

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