Investigators believe the man arrested Monday in connection with Sierra LaMar’s disappearance kidnapped and murdered the 15-year-old Morgan Hill girl, but her family is maintaining hope that she is still alive.
Fighting back tears, Sierra’s mother Marlene LaMar spoke at a news conference held at the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office in San Jose this morning.
“I’m not giving up hope,” LaMar said. “Her body has not been found.”
Sheriff Laurie Smith, however, said investigators are convinced that 21-year-old Antolin Garcia-Torres, who was arrested Monday evening, abducted and killed Sierra.
“The discovery of Sierra’s cellphone, her clothing, what she wore that day and her personal belongings have contributed to our belief that Sierra is a victim of murder,” Smith said.
Smith said detectives have found no weapon, no blood, and do not know how Sierra may have died.
She said it appears Garcia-Torres did not know Sierra.
“We believe that this is the worst type of crime, a stranger abduction of a young girl,” Smith said.
Smith said Garcia-Torres is a Morgan Hill resident. “He spent most of his life, if not all of his life, in that area.”
Garcia-Torres has been under 24-hour surveillance since March 28, when the sheriff’s office linked him to the crime through DNA evidence left on articles of clothing in Sierra’s discarded purse, which was found about 2 miles from her house days after her March 16 disappearance.
“It was that clothing that was really instrumental in identifying the suspect,” Smith said.
Evidence found in a red Volkswagen Jetta seized by detectives on May 7 gave deputies additional physical evidence implicating Garcia-Torres as Sierra’s kidnapper, Smith said.
Smith said the sheriff’s office had waited to arrest Garcia-Torres in order to gain more evidence.
“We were hoping he would lead us to where Sierra was,” Smith said.
She said Garcia-Torres has been linked to an unrelated assault that occurred in March 2009. He was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on charges of kidnapping and murder on Monday night.
Smith said investigators have spoken with Garcia-Torres several times, but that Monday night was his first in-custody interview.
“We have gained some value from our interviews with him but nothing substantial,” she said.
At the news conference, Sierra’s mother made a plea to Garcia-Torres to help authorities track down her daughter.
“Please give the information that you have to lead us to Sierra to help end this nightmare,” she said.
Sierra’s father, Steve LaMar, thanked the community for supporting the family in the search for his daughter.
“We still need your support, we need to bring Sierra home,” he said.