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Sheriff: Sierra LaMar's Murder was 'Purely Random'

Man arrested in connection with her kidnapping and death also is suspected of assaulting a woman in Morgan Hill three years ago.

Two and a half months after Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar disappeared, investigators said Tuesday the 15-year-old is dead.

"We have adequate facts, we have strong facts to believe she has been murdered," Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said.

Antolin Garcia-Torres, 21, was arrested for the girl's kidnapping and murder Monday night in Morgan Hill.

"It's my belief this was purely random," Smith said. "It was an absolute stranger abduction ... We believe this is the worst kind of crime: a stranger abduction of a young girl."

The unemployed Garcia-Torres was arrested Monday at the Morgan Hill Safeway where he used work, authorities said. Although it was initially reported he lives in San Martin, Smith said that he is a Morgan Hill resident and has lived in the community much of his life.

He has been under surveillance for nearly two months, Smith said.

"Public safety was our primary concern," the sheriff said. 

Lucero Garcia, the older sister Garica-Torres, told a Mercury-News reporter Tuesday that investigators got the wrong guy. Read her interview here.

Sierra went missing on her way to school March 16.

"Early on when our deputy first responded to a missing child report he knew this was not a runaway," said Smith, adding the deputy immediately suspected the case was a serious report.

Investigators found DNA evidence off Sierra's bag and linked it to Garcia-Torres. They linked that to Garcia-Torres on March 28—when the sheriff's surveillance began. DNA evidence was also found in his vehicle,  detectives were searching for and impounded in April, according to Smith.

Garcia-Torres has a prior misdemeanor conviction for interfering with an officer and a felony assault arrest, which was not prosecuted. Garcia-Torres is not a registered sex offender, Smith noted.

However, investigators suspect Garcia-Torres attacked at least one woman in Morgan Hill in 2009.

"There were three assaults in Morgan Hill about three years ago ... We have linked one of those to our suspect through forensic evidence," Smith said.

Smith said they were physical assaults "that were not completed." One involved a taser, another occurred at knife-point and during the third, the victim got away by locking herself in her car. She did not say which one had been tied to Garcia-Torres.

Sierra's mother, Marlene LaMar, made an impassioned plea to Garcia-Torres: "Please give the information that you have to lead us to Sierra to help end this nightmare. I would like to you to come forward and say where she is."

The Sierra LaMar case has garnered national attention. Her story was  earlier this month and news that an arrest was made Monday flashed on news websites around the country. Tuesday morning, at least seven broadcast trucks were stationed in front of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office in San Jose for a press conference to announce the arrest of Garcia-Torres.

Sierra's family, as well as representatives from the Santa Clara County Search and Rescue Team, the state Department of Justice, the county Board of Supervisors attended the press conference Tuesday.

"As a mother, still, I'm hopeful because her body has not been found," Marlene LaMar said.

This story will be updated.

For complete coverage of the Sierra LaMar case, refer to the Sierra LaMar Disappearance: Comprehensive Updates and Information page on Gilroy Patch.

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Maria Ristow May 22, 2012 at 04:37 PM
My heart goes out to Sierra's family. This despicable man is the stuff of parental nightmares-- may he one day suffer with the full realization of the pain and anguish he personally has caused.
Mckenna Smith May 22, 2012 at 04:42 PM
We will pray that God will give Sierra's family the strength they need to continue to live without their daughter. RIP, Sierra. Our deepest sympathies for the LaMar family.
Mike Calahan May 22, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I'm glad they caught this SOB. Those that molest and/or murder children don't do very well in prison, Antolin.
Larry Arzie May 22, 2012 at 09:37 PM
This young man has lost his rights to live in a civilized society. He will be put away for a long time. He is out of control and needs to be supervised the rest of his life. How did this happen? Did he fall through the cracks? Did we fail him? Did we fail her?
Marilyn Jespersen May 23, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Job well done by the Sheriff's Department. We are all saddened by this horrible crime and I cannot imagine how painful this news is for the LaMar family. If this man is proven to be guilty, let's hope this is the last time this vicious criminal is allowed to prey upon the women and children in our community.
Maria Ristow May 23, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Larry's questions are important. If we ever hope to prevent this type of tragedy, we need to understand how this could happen. And keeping our daughters safely locked up is not my idea of an answer.
Julian Groft May 24, 2012 at 04:04 AM
im glad they caught the guy! i dont understand who would do this type of thing
doris burse May 31, 2012 at 06:04 PM
doris burse im so glad they caught this animal and put him behind bars, but im so sad for the family. i know what they must be going through. my prayer goes out to you.

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