Missing teen Sierra LaMar believed dead, sheriff says
Investigators said Tuesday that "direct and circumstantial" evidence leads them to believe that a 21-year-old man kidnapped and killed 15-year-old Sierra LaMar, a high school cheerleader who disappeared in March on her way to school.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith revealed more information about the case against Antolin Garcia-Torres, who was arrested Monday night at a Safeway in Morgan Hill. Investigators said they believe Garcia-Torres, a Morgan Hill resident, picked Sierra at random.
"We believe this is the worst kind of crime — a stranger abduction of a young girl," Smith said during a news conference held to discuss the investigation and arrest.
Officers found DNA on a bag containing the girl's clothes discovered two days after her disappearance, Smith said. After receiving lab results March 28, Smith said investigators identified Garcia-Torres as the suspect and began around-the-clock surveillance on him.
"We needed additional information," Smith said. "We were hoping he would lead us to where Sierra was."
"Even though we had been surveilling him, surveillance is not perfect," she said. "We wanted to make sure this did not happen again."
Smith said evidence linking the girl to Garcia-Torres' vehicle was also recovered when a Jetta was found May 8. Smith declined to elaborate on what type of DNA evidence was found but said it did not include the girl's blood.
Investigators also linked Garcia-Torres to a March 2009 assault in Morgan Hill through DNA evidence, Smith said. She did not reveal the specifics of the incident.
Garcia-Torres has a criminal record, Smith said. He was previously convicted of interfering with a police officer and was arrested but not prosecuted in connection with a felony assault. Smith declined to elaborate on the incidents but said the assault was not sexual.
Several details are not known about Sierra's disappearance, Smith said, including where her body is, how she was killed or when. Smith said investigators hope the suspect will be more forthcoming in future interviews.
Although Sierra's body has not been found, Smith said detectives have "strong facts" she was killed.
"These are very, very difficult cases to prosecute, a homicide when you have not found a victim," she said. "But it has been done."
The girl's mother, Marlene LaMar, thanked the searchers who continued to look for her daughter. She also addressed the suspect, asking him to "say where she is."
"Please, please, give the information that you have to lead us to Sierra to help end this nightmare," she said.
— Kate Mather
Photo: Antolin Garcia-Torres, the 21-year-old man arrested Monday night in connection with the disappearance of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar, is seen in an undated photo provided by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office. Credit: Associated Press