05/22/2012 07:38:02 AM PDT
Santa County Sheriff Laurie Smith said evidence leads her office to believe missing teen Sierra LaMar is dead, and that a 21-year-old Morgan Hill man is her killer.
Antolin Garcia-Torres was booked Monday night into Santa Clara County Jail on one count of murder and one count of kidnapping after being taken in custody hours earlier at a Safeway in Morgan Hill.
“Our investigation has led to the identification of Antolin Garcia Torres as the person responsible for the kidnap and murder of Sierra LaMar,” Smith said at a Tuesday morning press conference. “We developed this through our investigation based on direct and circumstantial evidence including forensic analysis conducted by the Santa Clara county DA’s crime lab.”
Despite Smith’s announcement, Marlene LaMar said her family has not given up hope her 15-year-old daughter will be found alive.
“We continue to pray until she is found,” LaMar said. “Our search is not going to end. As a mother I’m hopeful. Her body has not been found and that gives me hope.”
Authorities, though, said they are certain she is dead and are hoping to get more information from the suspect that leads them to the body. Her mother, fighting back tears, asked Garcia-Torres to provide more information to investigators.
“I do have a plea to the perpetrator. Please give the information that you have to,” Marlene LaMar said. “Lead us to Sierra and end this nightmare. Come forward and say where she is and end this nightmare for us as a family.”
Smith said investigators initially had many suspects, but right now they believe only one person is responsible for the kidnap and murder of Sierra: Garcia-Torres.
The first deputy who responded to the March 16 missing person’s report on Sierra knew immediately she was not a runaway, Smith said. But she was not taken off the missing person’s list until 10 days after her disappearance.
Two days after she was reported missing, Sierra’s bag and some clothing were found.
“It was that clothing that was really instrumental in identifying the suspect,” Smith said.
Smith said from March 28 on, Garcia-Torres was under 24-hour surveillance, hoping they would find Sierra.
“He may have believed he was under surveillance,” Smith said. “We talked to him multiple times.”
Smith said she believes this was a stranger abduction, the “worst type of crime.”
In March 2009, there were three assaults in the Morgan Hill area. Forensic evidence leads investigators to believe Garcia-Torres committed at least one of them, Smith said.
Since January of 2011 in Santa Clara county alone there are 43 missing females that have never returned home. Smith said “you wonder” if any of those actually were abductions also.”
The sheriff’s office previously announced that a red Volkswagen Jetta may be connected to the case, and according to authorities, Garcia-Torres is the owner of the car, which was seized on May 8.
“We have a lot of physical evidence” Smith said Monday night. She said the public’s safety is the main concern of her office, and, “we don’t want to see anyone else hurt or any other little girls taken.”
Sierra disappearance on March 16 while she was supposed to be on her way to a school bus stop.
The day after her disappearance, investigators found her cellphone a few blocks east of her school bus stop. And, the next day, her pink Juicy-brand bag was found, containing a neatly folded T-shirt and pants.
KTVU-2 reported that Garcia-Torres was arrested around 6 p.m. at a Safeway store on Tennant Avenue in Morgan Hill, where he worked.
Witnesses to the arrest told the television station that sheriff’s officers took Garcia-Torres into custody at gunpoint. A broadcast showed him, clad in shorts and a tank-top with a chain connecting his wrists to his waist, being escorted away from the sheriff’s office after an interview said to have lasted three hours.
Marc Klaas, who has been organizing volunteer searches since Sierra’s disappearance, says he was given the same incomplete news after his own 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was kidnapped from their Petaluma home in 1993.
“I would say they’re very angry now,” Klaas said of the LaMar family, although he hadn’t talked to them late Monday night.
“They’ve been told somebody murdered their daughter, but they can’t prove it. That’s how I felt. They needed to prove to me one way or another before I would accept anything, until they proved to me my daughter was dead.”
After being dominated by fear and anger for the past two months, the LaMar family is now “possibly at the point where there won’t be anything left to be afraid of,” Klaas said.
Until Sierra’s body is recovered, he said, his volunteers will continue with a scheduled search Wednesday “in hopes of still finding Sierra alive.”
Monday’s arrest marks a sad turn to a case that began after the teen from the Morgan Hill area vanished on the way to school, sparking countless volunteer searches as her family and authorities scoured fields, creeks, back roads and reservoirs in hopes of finding Sierra.
Over the past two months, critical developments in the case emerged but none was revealed to be a breakthrough — until now.
Ten days after Sierra disappeared, the Sheriff’s Office took her off the missing persons list and Monday’s arrest suggested the worst.
“As difficult as it is, and as much as you want your child home and safe, you need a resolution. You need to know. There are far too many cases unsolved or cold that leave people in limbo from which they’re unable to move forward,” Klaas said.
“Imagine what it’s like,” he said, “to be told day after day that there’s no real news? You get to the point you just need news. You need to know where is my child?”
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
1526395 719391 269951 93
his path of destiny = 93 = Worse case scenario.
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