Attorney removed from Sierra LaMar case

June 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office has declared a conflict of interest in representing the man suspected of killing 15-year-old Sierra LaMar. No explanation was given in court, but ABC7 News has been digging into the story.

The conflict may very well be Antolin Garcia-Torres' father. In addition to the father's criminal history which includes DUIs, domestic violence, and vehicular manslaughter, he currently faces some disturbing allegations of repeated sexual assault on a child.

Public defender Ken Mandel briefly appeared in court on May 31 with murder suspect Antolin Garcia-Torres. Thursday he stepped down citing a conflict of interest. Mandel does not have to disclose what that conflict is, but ABC7 News has learned the Public Defender's Office also represents Garcia-Torres father in a current sexual assault case.

"If an attorney detects even the potential conflict, in the context of litigation, he must withdraw. So the public defender did exactly the right thing," said ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson.

Garcia-Torres is accused of kidnapping and killing 15-year-old Sierra LaMar in March. Court documents show his father Genaro Garcia Fernandez faces 14 counts of child molestation and sexual assault against a family member. The now adult woman came forward last year and outlined for detectives 10 years of abuse between 1990 and 2000 beginning when she was just 5 years old.

One alleged assault at age 7 or 8 was so vicious the report states, "The pain was so bad that V1 [Victim 1] needed to be carried by other people from place to place."

The report also details threats to keep the child quiet. "As the victim cried, Genaro told her 'not to say anything, or else.' The victim said Genaro had no remorse after the assault."

Johnson thinks the father's case is interesting in light of evidence unfolding against Garcia-Torres.

"Often these defendants in these horrific crimes are defendants who as children have been exposed to that same sort of horrific behavior," said Johnson.

Ironically, father and son were scheduled to be in court just one day apart next month. With the change in attorneys, the timeline has shifted and the accused killer of LaMar is now scheduled to enter a plea on July 31.

There are also new indications that Garcia-Torres may be the man Gilroy police say tried to lure four children into a car last summer. Their suspect sketch seems to closely resemble Garcia-Torres.

"It gives me chills just thinking about it," said Gilroy resident Jacinda Barker.

Barker and her family live on Miller Avenue where one of the incidents took place. Gilroy police say a man tried to get a 10-year-old girl into his car. A few days later on Ortega Circle, a man with the same description tried to lure three children to accompany him to a local restaurant. Gilroy police won't say if Garcia-Torres is the suspect in those two incidents because there haven't been any formal charges yet, but Gilroy Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao did say, "The whereabouts of the potential suspect are known and given his current location, he poses no threat to the public."

Whoever the suspect is, the Barkers are relieved.

"Sometimes it takes, unfortunately, multiple crimes or multiple attacks or attempts before something like that is finally put to an end," said Barker.

Garcia-Torres is also being investigated for the 2009 assaults at a Safeway parking lot.


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