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Possible evidence found in Sierra LaMar case

March 30, 2012 12:39:12 AM PDT
There are disturbing new developments in the search for Morgan Hill teenager Sierra LaMar. Volunteer searchers find two items not far from where she disappeared. What they found, if connected to the Sierra case, is a very troubling sign.

Nearly two weeks since the 15-year-old vanished, early Thursday evening, searchers found items just a mile or so from her home and the bus stop where Sierra was heading the day she disappeared.

Deputies and investigators got a full briefing on the latest developments Thursday night at the sheriff's department. Officials are not ruling out the possibility that the items may be connected to Sierra's case.

At the west end of Palm Avenue in Morgan Hill, to the side of the road, a volunteer searcher with KlaasKids found an empty box labeled "stainless steel handcuffs" and about five feet away, two used condoms.

"We don't know if these items are going to be related to the Sierra LaMar case or not, but we are going to have these items submitted to the crime lab for further testing," said Santa Clara County Sgt. Jose Cardoza.

The location where the items were found is just a mile and a half from Sierra's home. Those who live nearby are surprised by the discovery.

"It's not a lover's lane or party alley or nothing like that. Once in a while you see a car there, but nothing like that," said Gary Bettcher, a resident.

The items will be tested for DNA, prints, and other trace evidence. This comes nearly two weeks after Sierra's disappearance. No one has seen the 15-year-old since March 16th, she never made it to school that morning. Hundreds of volunteers have searched a 12-mile radius from Sierra's home and investigators are now saying Sierra may have been abducted.

The full scale volunteer search effort will continue every day, until Sunday.

Earlier on Thursday a new tactic was being used as volunteers started to cover urban areas, instead of just open spaces. There was another incredible turnout of volunteers as 447 people checked into the Find Sierra Search Center. In addition to the steady stream of volunteers, the center got another big boost.

"On behalf of Intero Real Estate, we have collected and we are giving to KlaasKids, to find Sierra, $12,000," said Cathy Jackson. The donation will help fund operations to find Sierra.

After two days of searching rural areas, community volunteers got some new assignments Thursday to search more urbanized locations. "We never know and ultimately, sometimes, they find answers in places they never thought. So, everywhere is a good place to search," explained volunteer searcher Isreal Rivera. Sheriff search teams found Sierra's cellphone and purse early in the investigation, near her home. The community-based effort is augmenting the official investigation.

Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was abducted and killed in 1993, says while he is appreciative for the outpouring of support, he thinks Sierra's puzzling disappearance raises serious concerns about how schools notify parents when students are absent. "If they had known earlier in the day that their daughter, who had a very good attendance record, didn't show up, then those red flags would've come up and possibly, we wouldn't all be here doing this right now," he told ABC7.

Detectives call Sierra's disappearance a "probable abduction" and key areas are being searched a number of times. Michael Le says that's important. His sister Michele was killed last year and found by a volunteer search team. "That was the fourth time we were in that area and it took us that many goes around it at the same place to finally find her," he recalled.

Klaas says they are bringing in more equipment and supplies to accommodate 1,000 volunteers expected to turn out this weekend.

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