The jury in the Sierra LaMar murder trial on Monday recommended to penalize convicted killer Antolin Garcia Torres with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The decision came less than one month after the jury unanimously found Garcia Torres guilty of kidnapping and killing the 15-year-old girl, who disappeared March 16, 2012 on her way to a bus stop near her mother's Morgan Hill home. The teenager's body has never been found.
Immediately after the penalty decision was read, Steve LaMar, Sierra's father, hid his face in his hands and shook his head.
"I would be lying if I didn't say I was disappointed in the verdict," Steve LaMar said. "(Garcia Torres will) be able to live. Sierra won't. He'll able to breathe. Sierra doesn't. He'll be able to eat every day, see his family, and we don't have that. His family doesn't grieve. We'll grieve for the rest of our lives."
Marlene LaMar, Sierra's mother, expressed mixed feelings.
"I feel at peace that (Garcia Torres) will not be on the streets and harm another a child, but the angst will be in our lives forever," she said. "Nothing will ever take that away."
With the penalty phase over, Sierra’s family says they now hope Garcia Torres will reveal where her body is, so everyone can finally be at peace.
"Yeah, that’s always the hope," Steve LaMar said. "That’s something that would help us in the grieving."
The jurors declined to comment on the penalty decision.
In response to the jury's sentencing choice, Garcia Torres' defense team filed a motion for a new trial. That hearing is scheduled for September.
Following last month's guilty verdict, which also found Garcia Torres guilty of attempting to kidnap three other women in Morgan Hill Safeway parking lots back in 2009, a roughly two-week long penalty phase began. During that time, prosecutors argued that Garcia Torres deserved the death penalty for not showing any mercy to Sierra LaMar and her family.
Garcia Torres' defense team countered by highlighting the defendant's tumultous childhood filled with instances of violence, poverty and abuse in hopes of generating compassion.