Turkish homeless man identified as “Ziya T” has confessed to fatally bludgeoning Staten Island mother Sarai Sierra in Istanbul.
The man has said his victim fought for her life for approximately 30 minutes before she went limp and he fled the scene.
Ziya T, a trash collector who lives in Istanbul was detained by police as he tried to flee across the border to Syria, after spending weeks on the run following the discovery of 33-year-old Sarai Sierra’s body, on February 2nd.
He told police he was drunk and high on paint thinner when he stumbled on Sarai Sierra, who was walking by Istanbul’s ancient city walls, according to the Hurriyet Daily News.
Zyia T said he tried to kiss Sarai Sierra and she resisted, hitting him with her cell phone as he dragged her into an alcove where they fought for about a half hour, police said.
In the midst of the struggle, he began hitting the woman with a rock until her body went limp. He then fled from the scene, leaving Sarai Sierra in only her underwear and a shirt.
But the next day, Ziya returned to the scene to cover Sarai Sierra’s body with two blankets before stealing her iPad and phone. He told police he later threw the belongings into the ocean.
“I got thinner, the woman was passing by there. I hit the woman’s head with a stick. When I woke up in the morning, I realized the blood of the woman and I understood she was dead. I went to Karabük and passed to Syria,” admitted Ziya T reported the Turkish news website, TimeTurk.com.
The Hurriyet Daily News reported that Ziya T has been taken into custody, and is in the process of being flown to Istanbul, where he will face formal charges in Sarai Sierra’s death.
Clad in camouflage pants and a navy blue zip-up jacket, Ziya was led out of a building and into a police vehicle by officers.
He does not speak English and gave his alleged confession in Turkish.
The amn also admitted that he lingered in the area after killing Sarai Sierra, and only fled after her body was discovered.
“On the 9th, on the 10th day, I had to run away to Syria when the Police found her dead body. Now I got captured. And today I’ll be handed over to Turkey,” he said in the video, translated from Turkish.
Police identified the suspect after inspecting thousands of security camera videos and conducting a “series of tests”.
Ziya was a scrap paper collector who used to hang around Istanbul’s ancient city walls, where Sarai Sierra’s body was found.Authorities said Sarai Sierra, who traveled to Turkey to explore her photography hobby, died after she was struck in the head with a brick.
Ziya had gone on the run after he learned that police were looking to pin the murder on him.
Last month, it was reported that Ziya allegedly said to his friend Zafer Ozden: “I ran, because Sarai Sierra’s murder in Istanbul will be put on me.”
Zafer Ozden told Turkish media: “He had a bag, and he left. He told me that Istanbul police told him: <<Ziya, leave this area, a murder has happened, and it will be put on you>>.”
Ziya also said he would go to Syria or Iran because paint-thinner addicts who were in the area at the time of the murder would put the blame on him.
Zafer Ozden said he does not believe his friend is capable of murder: “Normally, he’s not the killing type. I’ve known him since childhood. I don’t know what happens to people who sniff glue or paint thinner and how they lose themselves.
“Forget killing a person, he can’t even cut a chicken. Ziya was the same as always. There was nothing odd about him. We only know he went to prison for petty crimes in the winter because he doesn’t have a place to stay.”
Turkish police said that after studying footage from more than 500 cameras in the area, they were able to track Ziya in 16 different locations on January 24, the same day Sarai Sierra was murdered.
They said Ziya is pictured carrying Sarai Sierra’s brown leather jacket to a second-hand bazaar and selling it before fleeing Istanbul.
In addition, it had been reported that DNA samples taken from the suspect’s relative’s home matched that was taken from under Sarai Sierra’s nails and some blood on her T-shirt.
The woman’s husband, Steven Sierra, 40, says he has not been notified about the suspect’s capture from Turkish or American authorities, and it has done little to put his mind at ease.
Steven Sierra told the New York Daily News: “Whoever is being detained at the moment, we don’t even know if this person is indeed responsible.”
It led them to determine that [Ziya] was the man responsible for the brutal death of the young mother.
He has not been seen since he stayed with his sister and brother-in-law – who called him “unbalanced” – for three days after Sarai Sierra was murdered.
The Hatay province has tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, and police are now monitoring both refugee camps as well Turkish checkpoints on the Syrian border.
Two witnesses also told police they saw Ziya T on the day Sarai Sierra was killed and that he had scratches on his arms.