A new bench honoring Morgan Hill teenager Sierra LaMar will be dedicated at a school she once attended in Fremont on Sunday to mark the two-year anniversary of her disappearance.
The circular bench wraps around a tree on the campus of Washington High School in Fremont, where Sierra spent her freshman and part of her sophomore years before moving to Morgan Hill, said Nittra Foreman, whose daughter was a close friend of Sierra's.
Friends of 15-year-old Sierra, who vanished outside her home near Morgan Hill on March 16, 2012, wanted to dedicate the bench at Washington in her memory because it would have been her last year of high school, Foreman said.
"That's why it's appropriate to do it this year, it's for her senior class," Foreman said.
Nancee Reck, who was Sierra's attendance clerk at Washington and supervised her while a yard duty supervisor at Parkmont Elementary School in Fremont, said she still fights back emotions when thinking about her.
"I'm going to cry..." Reck said. "She was a lovely little girl, a little spitfire. She was just a tiny little thing, but her personality overshadowed her size. Just a lovely little girl."
The ceremony dedicating the five-corner bench for Sierra is to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday in the center of the high school campus at 38442 Fremont Boulevard.
Golden State Lumber of Newark donated the materials for the bench and Fremont-based Malpede Construction paid to build it, Foreman said.
A plaque that Foreman donated to be placed on the bench includes an inviting message that makes reference to Washington's school mascot, the
"Sit here with me quietly, you'll never be alone. We wait to see your smile again, and have our Husky Home," the plaque reads.
The rest of the inscription reads, "Dedicated to Sierra LaMar and the memory of all missing children. 3-16-14."
Though Sierra is believed dead by police and prosecutors, volunteers have conducted more than 500 searches for her body in Morgan Hill and elsewhere in southern Santa Clara County since 2012 and some still meet to search for her each Saturday.
Antolin Garcia-Torres, 22, a former Morgan Hill resident, has been in the Santa Clara County Main Jail since his arrest in her kidnapping and murder on May 21, 2012. He pleaded not guilty to the charges this past Feb. 13.
Prosecutors in the case believe that as Sierra walked to catch a bus for school, Garcia-Torres killed her after luring her into his red VW Jetta car, where sheriff's deputies claimed to have located evidence of the girl's DNA.
Foreman's daughter Channah was good friends with Sierra, who had attended Channah's March 10 birthday and signed her birthday card less than a week before Sierra disappeared, Foreman said.
The day Sierra was last seen was a Friday, and she was supposed to arrive later in the day for another of many overnight stays with Channah at the Foreman house, she said.
When Sierra did not come home from school, the girl's mother Marlene called Foreman at work to ask if Sierra was at Foreman's home in Fremont, she said.
"I said, 'I'm pretty sure she is not there -- I think you should call 911,'" Foreman said she replied.
Foreman then got into a car and drove to her Fremont home to see for herself that Sierra was not there with Channah, she said.
"She was really cheerful," Foreman said of Sierra. "I really liked her. She always wanted to learn, a kind who always asked questions, very outgoing. Others may think she was shy, but I don't think so."
Roger Nelson, a Gilroy resident who is a volunteer coordinator at the Sierra Search Center, the headquarters for search efforts in Morgan Hill, said he was going through a "range of emotions" leading up to the two-year anniversary.
"Everyone of us wants to bring Sierra home to her family, to bring closure to her family," Nelson said.
The frustration volunteers felt with the legal system throughout 2012 and 2013, waiting for Garcia-Torres to enter a plea after many delays, largely subsided after the defendant was indicted by a grand jury and made his plea last month, Nelson said.
"We have an exceptional group of volunteers who put up with ticks, poison oak, rattlesnakes" during searches for the girl, Nelson said. "I think people are very committed."