Jury to continue deliberations in Sierra LaMar kidnapping, murder case

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A jury of six women and six men began deliberating Thursday in the capital murder case of 26-year-old Antolin Garcia-Torres, the man accused of kidnapping and killing Sierra LaMar in 2012.

LaMar's family has been waiting five years for justice. "It's been a long trial, but it's just a blink of an eye compared to how much time we haven't had Sierra with us," Sierra's father Steve LaMar said.

TIMELINE: Sierra LaMar kidnapping, murder case

With their work done, the deputy district attorneys left the courthouse, along with the defense team, leaving it up to the jury to decide the fate of Garcia-Torres.

The Morgan Hill teenager was 15 years old at the time and was last known to be alive at 7:11 a.m. on March 16, 2012, based on text messages and use of her laptop.

While no body, no crime scene and no murder weapon has ever been found, the prosecution relied on DNA evidence to connect Garcia-Torres to Sierra's disappearance. The teen's clothing and cell phone were found discarded near her family's home in the days after. The prosecution said Garcia-Torres' DNA was found on Sierra's jeans, and her DNA was found on an armrest in the defendant's red VW Jetta. In addition to that, a rope was also found in the trunk that the prosecution said had Sierra's hair. However, the defense said the DNA evidence was flawed.

RELATED: Defense wraps up closing arguments in Sierra LaMar murder trial

The defense argued that the DNA evidence was flawed and complained that investigators did not pursue a possible lead of a brown car that was seen driving erratically the day Sierra disappeared. The defense maintains that she could be alive.

"There were a lot of questions that arose with how the DNA was gathered? How was it stored? Although they testified that there was the victim's DNA in one place and the defendant's DNA someplace else, was that accurate?" Santa Clara University School of Law Prof. Ellen Kreitzberg said.

However, the jury must weigh all the evidence in total to determine if Garcia-Torres is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The deliberation process is going to take a long time, and I think it could be arduous because there are differing views on each piece of this evidence, and what the defense tried to stress is that we feel sorry for Sierra LaMar, but justice isn't convicting an innocent man," legal analyst Steven Clark said.

Prosecutor David Boyd called Garcia-Torres "evil" in his rebuttal to the defense attorney's closing argument. That description was challenged by co-defense attorney Brian Matthews before the judge, but with the jury not present. Boyd said calling the defendant "evil" was mild.

Regardless of the verdict, Sierra has never been found, dead or alive. And for a dedicated group of volunteers, the search never ends. "We're just working really hard to return Sierra to her family," search team leader Roger Nelson said.

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