Three women—two White and one Hispanic—were assaulted during a seven-day period in parking lots of Morgan Hill's two Safeways in March 2009.
Now, Morgan Hill police detectives are saying Sierra LaMar murder suspect Antolin Garcia-Torres, 21, arrested Tuesday in connection with her disappearance, is "100 percent positively connected" to at least one of the incidents.
Authorities also have strong reasons to believe he could be responsible for the other two crimes, said Morgan Hill Police Sgt. spokesman Troy Hoefling.
A suspect sketch drawn at the time by a police artist to help capture the assailant never yielded any leads and nothing ever came of the investigations, Hoefling continued.
However, during the Sierra LaMar case, Hoefling said detectives ran a list of MHPD unsolved assaults and came up with the three Safeway cases.
The evidence gathered by the department from the incidents, including one specific case, was submitted and "he was positively identified to evidence that we have," Hoefling said.
Hoefling wouldn't comment on the evidence nor would he identify the exact incident to which Garcia-Torres is definitively connected.
Police say the first incident happened on March 19, 2009, when a man approached a woman getting into her car at the Safeway located on Dunne Avenue, but she was able to sit down and lock the doors before he could get inside.
Another incident happened that same evening at the Safeway located on Tennant Avenue, where Garcia-Torres was employed. In the second incident, a woman exited the Safeway and got into her car and a man entered her vehicle through the rear door of her vehicle, sitting in the back seat behind the driver's side and assaulted her with a Taser gun.
She escaped the assailant by screaming for help and getting someone's attention scaring the suspect away, Hoefling said.
In the third incident, seven days later on March 26, 2009, a woman outside of Safeway on Dunne Avenue parked her car and before she exited the vehicle, a man assaulted her with her own pocket knife.
Hoefling said detectives are following up to find out if Garcia-Torres is linked to the other two cases.
"If there's something to be further investigated with a subject in mind, we are doing whatever it takes to make comparison with the evidence we have and further follow-up. These cases are still open and are still pending," Hoefling said.
Morgan Hill police have had several contacts with Garcia-Torres over the past few years, Hoefling said, adding that he was cited numerous times for vehicle code violations.
On June 18, 2009 Garcia-Torres was cited for driving a black Chevrolet Impala without proof of insurance or a valid California driver’s license, although he did have a valid California identification card, a report obtained from the Morgan Hill Police Department states.
Despite comments questioning whether Garcia-Torres has been residing in Morgan Hill illegally, his 26-year-old sister Lucero Garcia confirmed that he’s a California resident, and said he was born in San Martin.
He's being held without bail at the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose and will be arraigned on felony kidnapping and murder charges at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the San Jose Hall of Justice.
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.