New evidence boosts optimism in search for Sierra


The number of volunteers dropped by 20 percent Wednesday, a big disappointment at Burnett Elementary School where the search teams are put together, but hope remains high that a break in the case could come at any time.

Volunteers were out searching shortly after 8 a.m. along Coyote Creek and other small ponds, undaunted by heavy growth of poison oak. Tuesday's discovery of the red and black VW Jetta captured on a surveillance camera has raised hopes for Sierra's mother and search coordinator Mark Klaas. "It is something that is significant that is going to expedite this investigation, I feel. I consider it a sign of hope," said Marlene LaMar, Sierra's mom.

"We want to know who owns it, who's been driving it, what's inside of it. There's a plethora of information that's available as a result of this new information," Klaas said. Investigators have not said where the car was found or whether it contains any physical evidence. While we wait to learn if the VW provides a break in Sierra's disappearance, the number of volunteers dropped. "We only have 80 today, at this point in time. We're hoping for more. We've had over a hundred," said volunteer coordinator Peg Horan.

"It would be a wonderful Mother's Day present to know that she's alive and back with her mom and dad," volunteer Marilyn Beaulieu said. Volunteers have encountered snakes, animal carcasses, and a suspected grave site, but nothing definitive. Some of the terrain is rugged. "I usually sign up for the hard searches. I find I like the challenge and I'm physically fit to do it," said volunteer Carol Salinger. Volunteer numbers are usually higher on Saturdays when more people are off work. The greater the number, the more search teams can be formed to cover wider areas.

Sierra's mother has a message for her daughter. "Stay strong," she said. "We're going to find you. You're coming back to us. Just hang in there."

Investigators are pursuing many different leads but ruled out any link to recent attempted kidnappings in San Jose and Walnut Creek.

The sheriff's office is stressing that they still want any information the public can provide about the time and location people may have seen the red Jetta. The public can contact investigators at (408) 808-4500 or via the anonymous tip line at (408) 808-4431.

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