Garcia-Torres charged with murder of Sierra LaMar

May 24, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The accused killer of missing 15-year-old Sierra LaMar of Morgan Hill was formally charged with her murder Thursday.

Antolin Garcia-Torres was in court for just 50 seconds. He kept his head down and did not enter a plea. The courtroom was packed with people who have been involved in the search for the teenager he is accused of killing.

"I felt that was fake the way he walked in like a little child with his head down, like he had just been scolded by his parents," volunteer searcher Emma Spencer said. "That was fake."

Prosecutors charged Garcia-Torres with one count of murder. The complaint says he killed Sierra after he forcibly kidnapped her. The two-page statement of facts presented by the district attorney does not tell us anything new about the evidence against him.

"What I can say to you is that where we'll prove that case is in a courtroom, in front of a jury, with facts," District Attorney Jeff Rosen said.

The single murder charge does include a special circumstance of kidnapping, which does make this case eligible for the death penalty. However, Rosen says he is not going to make that decision for some time.

According to a statement of facts, a tracking canine traced Sierra's scent from her house to a point approximately mid way down her street, where the dog appeared to lose the scent. Investigators believe Garcia Torres snatched Sierra just 150 yards from her home.

Sheriff's investigators did find DNA from Garcia-Torres on Sierra's clothing and Sierra's DNA in his red Jetta.

"The DNA is essential to prosecution' case because you need to tie these two people together. They did not know each other there was no reason to have their DNA on one another's possessions, so it's critical in the case," legal analyst Steven Clark said.

Clark, a former prosecutor, said the case does present challenges. "From a kidnapping standpoint, very, very strong evidence. But now you also have to establish a trauma, or something like that," said Clark. "Obviously, you need to establish a murder."

Meantime, the sheriff's department released more detailed parameters about where Sierra's body might be. According to court documents, she is not alive because, all of her known personal belongings including her asthma inhaler, her money, her house keys, and the clothing she was wearing the morning of her disappearance, have been located.

"We don't have information that Sierra ever left the area, so we will concentrate our efforts on locating her in the Morgan Hill, South County area," Sgt. Jose Garcia said.

Community volunteers have been searching for Sierra for more than two months and were hoping for answers today. "Obviously, he doesn't have a heart, but I hope that he just breaks down and confesses and lets us know where she is," volunteer searcher Jennifer Stultz said.

The suspect's family previously told ABC7 News they believe Garcia-Torres is innocent and he told them he never knew Sierra. Garcia-Torres' sister said she would like to talk at length, but the family has been advised not to make any more comments to the media.

Sierra's family was not in court. They told ABC7 News that emotionally, they are not prepared to face Garcia-Torres, and want to focus on finding Sierra.

Garcia-Torres will be back in court on May 31 to enter a plea.

Lisa Amin Gulezian contributed to this report.

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