SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Antolin Garcia-Torres has been formally charged with kidnap and murder in connection with the disappearance of Morgan Hill teenager Sierra LaMar.
During Garcia-Torres’ first court appearance on Thursday, prosecutors submitted a statement of probable cause stating that DNA recovered from his car and from Sierra LaMar’s purse tie the 21-year-old to the case.
Antolin Garcia-Torres, of Morgan Hill, appeared before Judge Jerome Nadler but his arraignment was continued to May 31. He will be represented by the public defender’s office and is being held without bail.
Garcia-Torres did not speak in court, and stood subdued with his head bowed.
The district attorney’s office has charged Garcia-Torres with one count of murder, with the special circumstance of committing the murder during a kidnapping.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said after the hearing that Garcia-Torres is eligible for the death penalty, but that his office hasn’t yet decided whether to pursue capital punishment.
“My office and law enforcement, aided by many volunteers in this county, continue to devote all available resources to finding her body,” Rosen said of 15-year-old Sierra.
“We hope that will happen soon to give her family some measure of peace,” he said.
KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:
Dive teams and volunteer searchers continue to look for the 15-year-old victim. Although investigators believe Sierra was murdered, her family has held out hope that she would be found alive.
Garcia-Torres is being held without bail until he is arraigned on May 31. He was arrested Monday on suspicion of murdering the 15-year-old Sobrato High School student.
Sierra woke up at 6 a.m. on March 16 and began getting ready for school. Her mother’s boyfriend had left for work, and her mother left a short time later, according to the document.
Sierra posted a photo of herself on a social media website at 7 a.m., and text-messaged a classmate at 7:11 a.m. to make plans to meet at school that day to compare their schoolwork and share makeup, according to the statement.
She typically left home by 7:15 a.m. and caught the bus to school at an unmarked bus stop several blocks from her house at 7:24 a.m., according to the document. However, she never made it to school that day.
Her cellphone was found the next day in a field within a mile of her home, and two days after her disappearance, her black-and-white Juicy-brand purse was found near a shed in a field less than 2 miles from her house.
The probable cause statement noted that all of Sierra’s personal belongings, including her asthma inhaler, her money, her house keys, and the clothing she was wearing the morning of her disappearance, have been located.
DNA collected from the clothing was found to have a “strong association” to that of Antolin Garcia-Torres, who lived 7 miles from Sierra’s home, according to the statement.
“It’s my belief this was purely random. It was an absolute stranger abduction. There’s no information that we have of any type that the two know each other, have had any contact,” Sheriff Smith said.
Garcia-Torres drove a red 1998 Volkswagen Jetta, which was seized by investigators on April 7. DNA found
in the car was a likely match to that of Sierra LaMar, the document states.
Sheriff Laurie Smith said at a news conference on Tuesday that investigators have not found any blood, and have not located a murder weapon or identified a motive for the alleged killing.
The suspect’s sister, Lucero Garcia-Torres, rejected the investigators conclusion. She remains convinced police arrested the wrong man.
“I know him. I know he didn’t do it. He’s not capable. There’s no motive,” she said, noting that Garcia-Torres had not fled the Bay Area and has been cooperative with police.
Police said Garcia-Torres was under surveillance for two months before they decided to take him into custody. Sheriff Smith said she was confident prosecutors could convince jurors of a guilty verdict even if Sierra’s body is not recovered.
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