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Sierra LaMar murder suspect under surveillance before arrest

May 22, 2012 |  5:00 pm

Garcia-torresInvestigators monitored the 21-year-old man suspected of kidnapping and killing teen Sierra LaMar around-the-clock since identifying him in March, officials said Tuesday.

Antolin Garcia-Torres was arrested Monday in connection with the disappearance of 15-year-old Sierra, who was last seen on her way to school March 16.

Two days after she disappeared, investigators found her bag with her clothes folded inside. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said Tuesday they collected DNA evidence from the items in the bag.

After receiving lab results March 28, detectives identified Garcia-Torres as the suspect, Smith said, and began 24-hour surveillance.

"We needed additional information," Smith said. "We were hoping he would lead us to where Sierra was."

Smith did not elaborate on why detectives made the arrest Monday except to say “public safety was our primary concern.”

“Even though we had been surveilling him, surveillance is not perfect,” she said. “We wanted to make sure this did not happen again.”

Smith declined to elaborate on the type of DNA evidence collected but said it did not include blood. Additional evidence was recovered from Garcia-Torres' red Volkswagen Jetta, she said.

Garcia-Torres was already in a DNA database because of an earlier arrest for felony assault, Smith said. He was not prosecuted in the case. Garcia-Torres also has a prior misdemeanor conviction for assaulting a police officer.

Evidence gathered in Sierra's case also linked Garcia-Torres to a March 2009 assault in Morgan Hill. Smith did not reveal specifics of the incident.

Neither a weapon nor Sierra's body has been recovered, Smith said. Investigators hope Garcia-Torres will reveal more information about Sierra's disappearance.

Jail records indicate Garcia-Torres is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.


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Photo: Antolin Garcia-Torres, 21, in an undated photo provided by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department. Credit: Associated Press