Details Revealed in Arrest of Antolin Garcia-Torres for Murder/Kidnap of Sierra LaMar

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith talks about the arrest in the Sierra LaMar case.

By Lisa Fernandez, Christie Smith, Kim Tere, Bob Redell, Tony Kovaleski and Marianne Favro
|  Thursday, May 24, 2012  |  Updated 8:10 AM PDT
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The mother of Sierra Lamar begs the suspect to lead the family to her daughter to

The mother of Sierra Lamar begs the suspect to lead the family to her daughter to "end this nightmare."

After two months of searching and worry, a man is behind bars in the tragic disappearance of Sierra LaMar, a Morgan Hill teen who was kidnapped near her home March 16.

Despite a 21-year-old Morgan Hill day laborer being in custody on kidnap and murder charges, the girl's  body still hasn't been found.

Sierra's father, Steve LaMar said at a Tuesday news conference hosted by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office: "We still need to find her," and "justice still needs to be served."

The suspect -- Antolin Garcia-Torres -- is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday; he was taken into custody Monday night at a Morgan Hill Safeway, and is in jail without bail.

His family supports him.

Reached at home, Garcia-Torres' sister, Lucero, told NBC Bay Area: "He did not do it. I know him. He's not capable of that. There is no motive."

Garcia-Torres' brother-in-law, Isbset Martinez, added that it's "unfair" that authorities are "pointing fingers" at Garcia, a father of a toddler and who is expecting another baby in about six months.

And his mother, Laura Torres-Albina, told NBC Bay Area that her son told her that deputies were only surveying him because they spotted him in his red Jetta near where Sierra disappeared. She said that her son told her, "I never knew the lady, never seen her before. Never. "

Torres-Albina also said that detectives interviewed her as well, but she didn't think they were serious, she thought it was surreal, like she was in a movie. What makes it even sadder for her, she said, is that her other son died five months ago of an illness, and Garcia-Torres' father is in jail.

To view Garcia-Torres sister and brother-in-law speak out, click below.

For nearly two months, hundreds of volunteers and expert search teams have logged thousands of hours searching for Sierra, who was last known to have headed off to her bus stop before school one morning, but never arrived. Many feared that she was killed. But the murder charge is the first tangible statement from authorities that they believe she is dead, despite her body not being found.

"I hope they caught the right person," said Kathy Ayraud, one of the volunteers whose daughters go to Sobrato High School, where Sierra did. "I'm hoping and praying," that someone finds Sierra's body.

And though Sheriff Laurie Smith pointed to Garcia-Torres' DNA found on Sierra's clothes as the key link to the arrest, she was unable to provide a motive for the killing. And she stressed that Garcia-Torres and Sierra had no known relationship.

"This was purely random," Smith said, adding that it's the worst kind of case, a "stranger abduction."

Detectives learned that Garcia-Torres was connected to the missing 15-year-old on March 28, when his DNA was found on her clothes and belongings, found two miles near the bus stop where she had last been headed, Smith said. Garcia-Torres' DNA match came back from the lab on Monday, and he was arrested shortly afterward. His DNA was in the system because of a 2009 felony assault, for which he was arrested, but never prosecuted for reasons unclear.

Since March 28, detectives have been watching Garcia-Torres "24/7," Smith said.

Smith added that Garcia-Torres is now allegedly linked to at least one of three other assaults in Morgan Hill in 2009, one involving a Taser. She would not specify, which case that was.

She said Garcia-Torres has talked a little to detectives, but she wishes he would be more forthcoming.

Still a mystery, however, is where Sierra Lamar is. Her body has not yet been recovered, but Smith said there is strong evidence to conclude that she is dead. One reason, Smith said, is that Sierra was "very social," using the phone and social media to talk extensively with her friends. Since her disappearance, Smith noted, there has been no activity on Sierra's social accounts or phone.

She acknowledged it's more difficult to prosecute a homicide case without a victim's body. But she said it can be done.

Smith also provided a sad statistic: Since January 2011, there are 43 missing females that haven't returned home in Santa Clara County. "You wonder," she said, if any of those were abductions, too.

Sierra's parents, Marlene and Steve LaMar, attended the news conference, and spoke briefly at the end.

Marlene LaMar thanked the community for all their support and searching. But she said the "nightmare" isn't over for her family. And she's "not giving up hope" that her daughter may still be alive because her body hasn't been found.

To view Sierra's father, Steven LaMar, speak, click below.

 

Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-432-4758 or lisa.fernandez@nbcuni.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/ljfernandez.

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