The nearly three-year search for Sierra LaMar ended on Saturday.
The Sierra LaMar Search Center has been conducting weekly searches since the Morgan Hill teen went missing on March 16, 2012. Volunteers have put in more than 50,000 hours of time looking for her body. The 15-year-old was last seen on her way to a school bus stop.
The last formal search for Sierra LaMar concentrated in the Coyote Creek area of Morgan Hill.
“We’re especially looking for depressions that could have been easy to place to conceal a body then cover it up,” search team leader Kelby Jones said.
A new poster for Sierra LaMar was introduced at the final search on Saturday. The poster, recommended by child advocate Marc Klaas and approved by the LaMar family, showed Sierra over a shot of volunteers sporting her favorite red sneakers.
"We always want people to know that Sierra matters for all of our girls," said Debbie Nunes, a volunteer who has helped in the searches. "Children in general, they're vulnerable -- they matter so much. And we need to be sure they're always safe."
Search coordinators emphasize a tip line will remain active with an on-call search unit ready to be mobilized.
"That helps a lot," said Steve LaMar, Sierra's father. "We don't have to feel like 'everything's coming to an end' and 'we don't have anything else' -- that type of thing thing. So yeah, that helps a lot."
But the decision to end the Saturday searches was still painful to him.
“At this point, we’ve exhausted our inventory of viable search areas," Steve LaMar said. "So that’s why we’re suspending it for now.”
With the formal searches now over, Sierra's mother tearfully thanked volunteers Saturday.
“We never thought this was going to happen to us, but it did," Marlene LaMar said. "And really, everybody, including the media, really helped to sustain us. We don’t want to give up.”
The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office said its investigation is still active and acknowledged the support it got from the search center over the years.
"We got a lot of help from them, we got a lot of tips," Sgt. James Jensen said. "They did a lot of hard work. They were out there for days on end, running and walking around in the mud. They were out in the sun. Extremely disappointing they are closing."
Even without a body, 23-year-old Antolin Garcia-Torres has been charged in her death. His lawyer last week told a judge he needed at least another six weeks to prepare for the murder trial. The district attorney is seeking the death penalty in the case.
Searchers believe Garcia-Torres knows where her body is and are begging him to end their pain by telling them the location.
“One person knows who did this, and he can end this agony for this family right now,” Klaas said.
Torres is scheduled to return to court April 8 for another trial-setting date.
NBC Bay Area Legal Analyst Steven Clark said the end of the searches could impact the case, including speeding up proceedings.
"This is a very big watershed moment in the case. What this signals is the investigation is closing. And now it's time to try the case," Clark said in a previous interview. "As long as those searches were continuing, this was a 'fluid' investigation, which also encouraged some of these delays."