Sierra LaMar suspect Antolin Garcia-Torres pleads not guilty

Antolin Garcia-Torres, accused of Sierra LaMar's 2012 abduction and murder, pleaded not guilty Thursday.
February 13, 2014 8:10:11 PM PST
Antolin Garcia-Torres, the 22-year-old man accused of the 2012 abduction and murder of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar, pleaded not guilty in court Thursday. It took a secret criminal grand jury indictment to finally get the case moving.

Besides the not-guilty plea, the attorney for Garcia-Torres is seeking to seal the grand jury transcript. We're told that may be in an attempt to find flaws in the proceeding that could nullify the indictment. No trial date has been set yet until a decision on the matter is made.

Garcia-Torres wore a well-pressed tan suit as he walked into court nearly two years after LaMar disappeared on her way to a bus stop in Morgan Hill. She was 15 at the time.

Garcia-Torres has been indicted with felony kidnap and murder charges, they are charges that could lead to life in prison. A decision has not been made yet whether to seek the death penalty.

Garcia-Torres' attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

LaMar's parents were not in court Thursday, but friends and volunteer search team members were. They said the day's events bring justice one step closer for the family.

"They haven't had answers in two years, and there's one person we know of that has the answers and is not sharing it, and it's difficult," search team member Kelli Wilkins said.

Garcia-Torres is charged with murder, even though LaMar's body or a crime scene has never been found. However, investigators say Garcia-Torres' DNA was found on clothing belonging to LaMar buried near the spot where she was last seen.

The defense attorneys would not talk to reporters, but legal analyst Steven Clark says the lack of a body may be a key strategy.

"Until Sierra's body is found, they may take the approach that the DA hasn't even proven that she's deceased," Clark said. "That's the first hurdle for the District Attorney. And then they have to associate and prove that Mr. Garcia-Torres is the one who killed her."

The prosecutor also declined to go on-camera. It's likely both sides are concerned about pre-trial publicity that could lead to a change of venue outside the county.

Volunteers continue to search weekly for LaMar.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith says her office will not give up.

"We are still looking; we're still doing everything that we can," Smith said.


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