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Sierra LaMar Homicide Suspect Charged With Murder, Arraignment Postponed

No plea entered and no bail set for Antolin Garcia-Torres, who was formally charged with murder Thursday afternoon by the Santa Clara County District Attorney.

Antolin Garcia-Torres, 21, the man accused of kidnapping and murdering Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar, remains at the Santa Clara County Jail in downtown San jose with no bail following a brief appearance this afternoon at the Hall of Justice for what was expected to be his arraignment.

However, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jerome Nadler postponed the formal reading of the charges until 2 p.m., May 31 to allow whoever will represent Garcia-Torres a chance to read the criminal 1½-page felony complaint filed today against the defendant on one count of murder, with the special circumstance of committing the murder during a kidnapping.

A public defender will be appointed to Garcia-Torres, but no bail was allowed, Judge Nadler said. During the brief proceeding, he did not speak and stood with his head looking downward, flanked by two bailiffs, his hands and feet shackled and dressed in jail garb.

During a packed courtroom hearing in Department 23 on the basement floor of the Santa Clara County Superior Court building on Hedding Street, about 30 media representatives showed up early to get a seat inside the court room to cover the high-profile national case.

The girl vanished on her way to catch the 7:20 a.m. school bus to Sobrato High School, where she was a sophomore.

Court records obtained by Patch Tuesday reveal Garcia-Torres had his run-ins with public safety authorities in Morgan Hill and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office prior to his arrest Monday.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith held a news conference Tuesday morning to announce that Garcia-Torres was their main suspect in the case and that DNA evidence discovered on Sierra’s purse and clothing, found off the side of the road about a mile northwest of her home days after she was reported missing, linked Garcia-Torres to the crime and that her DNA was also found in the suspect’s vehicle—a red, mid-1990s Volkswagen Jetta 

Garcia-Torres' arrest followed more than two months of searches for the girl to no availa. Her body remains missing, but authorities say they  have positively linked him through DNA evidence to her murder.

Inside the courtroom present were Garcia's mother, Laura, sister Lucero and other relatives and friends of the defendant. Also attending the hearing were volunteers who have been searching for Sierra's body. Sheriff Smith was also in attendance.

Near the front steps of the Hall of Justice a small group of Sierra supporters chanted, "Sierra, we love you." One held a placard that read, "Where is she?"

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen held a small news conference outside the courthouse to address reporters' questions. He also released a statement of facts related to the case to the media, which detailed information about the crime.

"Sierra never got on her bus that morning, she never made it to school that day, and she was not home when her mother returned from work that day, which was unusual because Sierra was routinely home before her mother," the statement said about the day the girl disappeared.

Garcia-Torres lived about seven miles from Sierra's home and drove a 1998 Volkswagon Jetta and criminologists located DNA foreign to Garcia Torres within the car and found "a strong association between that foreign DNA and the DNA profile of Sierra LaMar," the statement added.

Since March 28, Garcia Torres had been under surveillance "and he has not led investigators to Sierra's location ... There is no evidence that Antolin Garcia-Torres and Sierra LaMar knew each other, or had friends in common. The evidence establishes probable cause to believe that Sierra LaMar was forcibly kidnapped and murdered by Antolin Garcia Torres," the statement continued.

Rosen said the investigation into Sierra's disappereance is continuing and authorities are "carefully and painstakingly going through all of the evidence that we have thus far.

"We will do everything in our power to seek the truth and to seek justice for Sierra LaMar," Rosen said.

Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney David Boyd has been assigned as the prosecutor on the case, which Rosen promised to pursue with diligence at his office, crime laboratory and in the courtroom.

He asked media representatives who will be covering the case to "respect the often silent part of the process. We hope that you will respect the fact that we as prosecutors have taken an oath to protect the constitutional rights of all defendants, including this defendant (Garcia-Torres)."

Rosen said his office will "aggressively seek justice" and explained the charge of murder under special circumstances with kidnapping is a death-penalty eligible charge, but the DA's office has a protocol in making a decision as to whether to seek the capital punishment.

That protocol involves reviewing all of the evidence on the case, speaking with the victim's family, going through aspects of the defendant's life to inform their decision and speaking with Garcia-Torres' attorney's input. "This process will take some period of time," Rosen said.

Can the DA convict Garcia-Torres without a body? Rosen his prosecutor will prove that Garcia-Torres killed Sierra in the courtroom in front of a jury with facts.

Rosen also said his office and the Sheriff's Office have a good working relationship and have been working together since the beginning of the investigation sharing information along with state and federal law enforcement officials and also volunteers who have given much of their time to the case as they searched for Sierra.

Jim Thrall May 25, 2012 at 02:53 AM
So sad. So many mistakes and oversights in the chain of errors. I hope she is alive, but that is so unlikely. I hope he confesses and settles this. He should never see free air again. He took a life. Now we all need to maintain his until it ends.

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