The suspect in the Sierra Lamar disappearance stepped into a courtroom for the first time today. Since the murder charge has a special circumstance of kidnapping, the prosecution could pursue the death penalty.
A 21-year-old Morgan Hill man was charged (PDF) Thursday with the murder and kidnap of Sierra LaMar Thursday afternoon in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Antolin Garcia-Torres is now eligible for the death penalty, because the kidnap charge makes it a "special circumstance." If prosecutors decide not to seek death, the maximum Garcia-Torres could spend in prison is life without parole.
Garcia-Torres, who is being held without bail, said nothing at the brief court hearing. He was ordered back on May 31, and was referred to the public defender's office. His family, including his mother and sister, attended.
Neither of the LaMar parents were present.
Garcia-Torres' first court appearance follows a Monday night arrest by Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies at a Morgan Hill Safeway where he worked. Authorities say that he abducted the 15-year-old teen near her bus stop on March 16, and killed her, even though her body has yet to be found.
Court documents (PDF) made public after Garcia-Torres was charged don't offer substantial new information into the case. But a few new details were revealed.
On the day Sierra went missing, the documents state that the Sobrato High School teen normally arrived at her bus stop at 7:15 a.m., and the bus would pick her up at 7:24 a.m. She was the only student who was picked up at that stop. That day, the documents state, she texted with a classmate at 7:11 a.m. The two agreed to meet at school that day before class to compare homework and share makeup. Investigators stated this was the last social communication she ever made.
Sierra never made it to the bus, or school, that day. And she never made home, "which was unusual because Sierra was routinely home before her mother," the documents state. Later that evening, her mother, Marlene LaMar, reported her daughter missing.
The next day, sheriff's deputies conducted an extensive ground and air search. Sierra's cell phone was found in a field a mile from her home during the search.
On March 18, her purse, school books and clothes were found near a shed in a field less than two miles from her home.
Her belongings were sent to the county's crime lab. "A search of the database identified a strong association between the foreign DNA from Sierra's clothing and the DNA profile of Antolin Garcia Torres," the document states.
Garcia-Torres lives about seven miles from Sierra's home. On April 7, investigators seized his 1988 Volkswagen Jetta and found DNA in his car that had a "strong association" with Sierra's, the document states.
Garcia-Torres and the teen did not know each other. In a news conference Tuesday, Sheriff Laurie Smith added the kidnap was "purely random."
Garcia-Torres has declined several attempts to be interviewed in jail. His mother and sister told NBC Bay Area earlier this week that he couldn't have committed the crime, and that he never knew Sierra.
The case has made national news, and Sierra's story was also aired on America's Most Wanted. Outside court Thursday, there were several community members wearing Sierra T-shirts.
Mike Nino, someone who has searched for Sierra's body over the last two months, said, "We hope she is still alive and OK. We hope she comes home."