ANKARA, Turkey – The man suspected of killing the Latina mother of three in Turkey said he beat her after she rebuffed his advances.
Ziya Tasali was charged after he admitted to police that he killed her after he tried to kiss Sarai Sierra, 33, of New York City and she resisted – triggering a scuffle that concluded when she ended up dead. Authorities said Sierra died of a blow to the head.
“I had lost myself. I don’t remember the incident much – I had sniffed too much glue,” Tasali said in newly released footage, according to the Hurriyet Daily News.
Sierra 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 to travel to Turkey with a friend, but that person canceled for financial reasons.
Tasali, 46, described as a homeless scrap paper collector, 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.
There were conflicting reports about his arrest, with Turkey's interior minister saying Tasali 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 set after prosecutors prepare an indictment detailing the charges. He will be detained through his trial.
The maximum penalty for murder in Turkey is life imprisonment.
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.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.