MORGAN HILL (CBS SF) — The disappearance of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar is now a murder investigation with the suspect tied to evidence in the case, according to authorities.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said investigators believe LaMar is dead and DNA evidence links 21-year-old Antolin Garcia-Torres to her killing.
The evidence was found in a bag carrying some of LaMar’s possessions which was located less than two days after her disappearance, Smith said.
“The discovery of Sierra’s cellphone, her clothing, what she wore that day and her personal belongings have contributed to our belief that Sierra is a victim of murder,” Smith said.
Smith said would not comment on the nature of the DNA evidence found.
There was also physical evidence in Garcia-Torres’ car, an older-model Volkswagen Jetta which was found earlier this month.
LaMar hasn’t been seen or heard from since she left her home in Morgan Hill to go to school on March 16. Authorities believe she was kidnapped while walking to a bus stop.
It appeared that Garcia-Torres and LaMar did not know each other. “We believe that this is the worst type of crime, a stranger abduction of a young girl,” Smith said.
Smith said Garcia-Torres had been under surveillance since March 28, when the sheriff’s office linked him to the crime through DNA evidence left on articles of clothing in Sierra’s discarded purse, which was found about 2 miles from her house days after her March 16 disappearance.
Smith said the sheriff’s office had waited to arrest Garcia-Torres in order to gain more evidence. “We were hoping he would lead us to where Sierra was,” Smith said.
Garcia-Torres was arrested Monday at a Safeway in Morgan Hill. Smith said the Morgan Hill resident may also be involved in other recent assaults in the Morgan Hill area and has been linked to an unrelated assault that occurred in March 2009.
Fighting back tears at the press conference, Sierra LaMar’s mother said she was not giving up hope that her daughter would be found alive since her body has not yet been found.
Marlene LaMar also pleaded with suspect to reveal where her daughter is. “Please give the information that you have to lead us to Sierra to help end this nightmare,” she said.
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