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Sierra LaMar slaying suspect charged in attempted kidnappings

November 14, 2012 |  9:53 am

Antolin Garcia-TorresThe man accused of killing 15-year-old Sierra LaMar of Morgan Hill has been charged in three attempted kidnappings at Safeway stores that left a Northern California community on edge.

Investigators linked Antolin Garcia-Torres, 21, to the three 2009 attacks while investigating the LaMar case, the Mercury News of San Jose reported. Garcia-Torres was 17 at the time of the attacks but will be charged as an adult, the newspaper said.

The first incident occurred the evening of March 19, 2009, the Mercury News reported, when a 36-year-old woman told police she noticed a man walking behind her as she left a Safeway on Dunne Avenue in Morgan Hill.

The woman said the man began walking faster as she did, and after she got in her car, he tried to open the driver's side door. She had locked it, however, and drove away.

A few hours later, at another Safeway store about two miles away, a man attacked a 46-year-old woman as she got into her car, hitting her head with his fist and using a stun gun on her head and neck, the newspaper reported. The man ran when a passerby approached the vehicle after hearing the woman's screams.

Police said the suspect apparently got into the vehicle through an unlocked door.

The third attack occurred a week later, back at the Dunne Avenue Safeway, the Mercury News reported. An 18-year-old woman told police that after she parked behind the store, a man got into the back seat of her car. At the time, she was getting a pocket knife from her glove box — protection she carried after hearing of the first two attacks.

The man grabbed the knife, forced the woman's hand to her throat and placed the blade to her neck, the newspaper said. He hit her leg and "made grunting noises," but as soon as the woman screamed, he jumped out of the car and ran.

The string of attacks made some residents afraid to go to the store, the newspaper said, and prompted automated phone alerts from police to "keep residents up to date."

After Garcia-Torres — who used to work at a Safeway in Morgan Hill — was arrested on May 21 this year, investigators said DNA evidence connected him to a March 2009 attack, but did not elaborate on the crime.

Authorities linked Garcia-Torres to LaMar after finding his DNA on the girl's clothes, which were found neatly folded in a bag not far from where she was last seen. The high school cheerleader vanished the morning of March 16 on her way to school.

The teenager's body has not been found, despite extensive searches by both police and volunteers.

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— Kate Mather

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

Photo: Antolin Garcia-Torres. Credit: Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department

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