Bay Area

Suspect Held in Sierra LaMar Disappearance

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith has confirmed that a 21-year-old is being held on suspicion of kidnapping and killing teenager Sierra LaMar of Morgan Hill. The sheriff says Antolin Garcia-Torres, also a Morgan Hill resident, is not a registered sex offender which, according to the FBI agents who assisted on this case, would have made him an unlikely perpetrator.

"In these cases, it's a very small percentage" that are committed by registered offenders, Smith said in a news conference Tuesday morning.

Authorities believe LaMar was abducted on her way to a school bus stop on the morning of March 16. That disappearance touched off an intense manhunt, led by family members who adamantly refused to give up hope of recovering the girl. Sheriff's officials, volunteers and even famous local athletes have helped search nearby fields and reservoirs.

Even though the victim has yet to be found, it seems the suspect has been in the Sheriff's Office's sights since soon after LaMar disappeared. Smith says Garcia-Torres has been under round- the- clock  surveillance since March 28th, since forensic analysis identified his DNA on LaMar's clothing bag. That bag was found two miles from the girl's home just days after she was reported missing.

Garcia-Torres has a prior misdemeanor conviction for interfering with an officer, as well as a felony assault arrest that was never prosecuted. That arrest got him into the crime database where his DNA linked him to LaMar's disappearance. He was arrested Monday evening at a Safeway in Morgan Hill.

Sheriff Smith says her team believes the evidence is strong enough to prosecute, even without LaMar's body or a murder weapon. Other people were put under surveillance as well, but Garcia-Torres is the only suspect in this case.

The arrest is little comfort to Sierra LaMar's parents, who are still searching for her body. It's unclear when the next search party will head out, but that effort will continue, both in hopes of bolstering the prosecution and of bringing closure to the family.

"Please, please give the information that you have to lead us to Sierra, to help end this nightmare," said Marlene LaMar, Sierra's mother. "I would like you to come forward and say where she is and end this nightmare for us as a family."

"We still need your support," said the girl's father, Steve LaMar. "We need to bring Sierra home."

So far Garcia-Torres has not told investigators where the girl's body is, but Sheriff Smith says his conversations with authorities have been valuable. The forensic evidence now also links him to an unsolved, non-sexual assault in 2009. There were three unsolved assaults against women that year: one involving a Taser, one involving a knife, and one involving a man trying unsuccessfully to get into a woman's car. Smith would not say which one Garcia-Torres is now linked to or whether prosecutors would pursue that case.

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