The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department continues to follow up on leads in the case of missing teenager Sierra LaMar and is asking for the public’s help in continuing the search for the girl. While an arrest has been made in connection with the disappearance, the case will remain open until she is found.
According to sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jose Cardoza, there has been an increase in tips following this week’s arrest of Antolin Garcia-Torres. Garcia-Torres has been charged with kidnapping and murder and is scheduled for arraignment on May 31.
“In an effort to maximize resources to locate Sierra, the sheriff’s office is encouraging the community and rural property owners to continue searches of land, water shorelines, creeks, streams, private property wells, large containers, and abandoned sheds or outhouse structures,” Cardoza said in a news release. “The areas of focus should be south Santa Clara County and the land bordering our county such as north San Benito County, north Monterey County, and east Santa Cruz County.”
Garcia-Torres’ arrest was the culmination of more than two months of investigation.
The Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office on Thursday made public the Statement of Facts in the case as well as a copy of the complaint against Garcia-Torres. According to these documents, LaMar was last seen on March 16 when she left for school. Her mother reported her missing that evening when she failed to return home from school.
The following day, a search dog was able to trace her scent from her house to a point about midway down her street, where the dog appeared to lose the scent. Later that day, LaMar’s cell phone was discovered in a field less than a mile from her home in unincorporated Morgan Hill. On March 18, search teams located her purse, school books, and clothing near a shed in a field less than two miles from her home.
The evidence was immediately submitted to the Santa Clara County Crime Lab for analysis. Forensic examination of the clothing revealed DNA that did not belong to the missing girl. The DNA profile was then entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), an FBI database that stores DNA profiles created by federal, state, and local crime labs in the U.S. CODIS was able to identify a “strong association” between the foreign DNA found on LaMar’s belongings and Garcia-Torres’ DNA profile. Local investigators learned of the match on March 28 and their suspect had been under 24-hour surveillance from that date to the time of his arrest on Tuesday.
Prosecutors say Garcia-Torres lived about seven miles from LaMar’s home and drove a 1998 Volkswagen Jetta. Investigators seized the vehicle on April 7 and crime lab criminalists managed to find DNA foreign to Garcia-Torres inside the vehicle. That DNA was then processed and connected to Sierra LaMar. Both sheriff’s investigators and prosecutors believe the case was a stranger abduction, as LaMar and Garcia-Torres had no known connection.
Garcia-Torres made a brief court appearance Thursday when he was appointed a public defender. While he has been charged with one count each of kidnapping and murder, his arraignment was continued to May 31. He remains behind bars in Santa Clara County Jail without bail and has thus far failed to lead investigators to LaMar’s location. Prosecutors, however, are confident they can get a conviction even if a body is never found.
CrimeVoice: Arrest made in Sierra LaMar Missing Girl Case