New trial date issued for man accused of murdering Sierra LaMar

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016
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A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge denied a request Monday to delay the trial of a man accused of murdering Sierra LaMar. Officials said jury selection will begin on September 19.

MORGAN HILL, Calilf. (KGO) -- A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge denied a request Monday to delay the trial of a man facing charges in the disappearance of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar, which occurred outside Morgan Hill more than four years ago.

The family of Sierra appeared in court for the first time Monday. They expressed anger and frustration over the many delays, but they finally have a court date. Officials said jury selection will begin on September 19.

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Antolin Garcia-Torres had already entered a plea of not guilty, but his defense attorney's asked for his trial be delayed to October 10 in order to go over volumes of evidence, including new analysis of data from Sierra's cellphone sent last month to a manufacturer in South Korea.

Superior Court Judge Vanessa Zecher denied the defense's motion to postpone the trial during a hearing at the Hall of Justice in San Jose.

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The request wasn't granted based on the length of the time the case has been pending and that there are three attorneys representing Garcia-Torres who are capable of working out any issues in preparation for the trial.

Sierra's father Steve LaMar asked the court to start the trial as soon as possible. "The district attorney's office has been good about advising us that it's going to be a long haul, it's still frustrating for us because we want answers, we've wanted answers since 2012," he said.

WATCH VIDEO: Searchers look for signs of Sierra LaMar 4 years after disappearance

The prosecutors and the defense attorneys would not do interviews after court. However, they told the family there are many issues to be ironed out over the next six weeks, including what evidence might be disallowed and whether a change of venue will be granted.

Also on hand Monday were volunteers who organized the massive search operations for Sierra. "I'm looking forward to the trial starting and for justice for Sierra LaMar and the return, the optimal would be the return of Sierra to her loving family," search coordinator Roger Nelson said.

There will be breaks in the trial on the weeks of Nov. 21 and Dec. 19 for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, respectively, the judge said.

Sierra was last seen on March 16, 2012, leaving her home in unincorporated Morgan Hill and wasn't on her bus for school. Her body hasn't been recovered, but investigators found her cellphone and Juicy-brand purse with her clothes folded inside days after she went missing miles away from her home.

Garcia-Torres was arrested in connection with Sierra's disappearance about two months later when investigators found her DNA in his red Volkswagen Jetta. One of the defense attorneys for Garcia-Torres is Alphonso Lopez, who said he will be more focused on Garcia-Torres' case once he takes a two-week vacation after a jury reaches a verdict in another trial he's been working on.

After Monday's hearing, Steve said he wasn't completely satisfied with the tentative jury selection date, but was glad to be there and see the case slowly proceeding.

For more stories about Sierra LaMar, click here.

Bay City News contributed to this story.