SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Sierra LaMar’s mother and sister wept on the witness stand Tuesday as they testified in the death penalty trial of Antolin Garcia-Torres, the 25-year-old man charged with the 15-year-old’s murder.
Prosecutor David Boyd also called up a third witness, the Morgan Hill school bus driver who took Sierra to and from Ann Sobrato High School most weekdays in the month before she went missing in March 2012.
But before the jury or Sierra’s parents entered the San Jose courtroom Tuesday morning, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Vanessa Zecher, prosecutor David Boyd and defense attorney Al Lopez discussed whether the defense could be permitted to bring up the court order preventing Sierra from living with her father, Steve LaMar.
In 2009, Steve LaMar was charged with at least 10 counts of child molestation, which had taken place at least five years earlier. He pleaded guilty to one count and served a year in jail.
According to an Oct. 6 motion from Lopez, Steve LaMar was convicted of molesting his daughter’s 8- and 9-year-old friends when they were sleeping over at the LaMars’ house.
On Oct. 27, prosecutors responded that the nature of Steve LaMar’s more than 12-year-old conviction was not relevant to the case and could mislead jurors into mistakenly ascribing third-party culpability in Sierra’s
Attorneys and Zecher also discussed a journal entry by Sierra in which she expresses angst at “Moving away from all my friends, the situation with my mom and her boyfriend, not being able to see my dad because he got sent to jail for something he didn’t even do.”
Before the jury Tuesday, both Boyd and Lopez briefly mentioned the court order, but neither attorney brought up the journal entry or Steve LaMar’s molestation conviction.
Sierra’s mother, Marlene LaMar said in her testimony, that Sierra had mixed feelings about moving from Fremont to Morgan Hill in October of her sophomore year.
“She was sad to leave her friends. She was very close with her friends,” Marlene LaMar said, adding that Sierra had thought it was wrong for her mother to move in with her boyfriend before marriage.
When asked about the last time she saw Sierra, around 6 a.m. on March 16, 2012, Marlene LaMar said through tears, “I went to her bedroom and I told her I loved her. We would always do that in the mornings. I gave her a
hug… she said ‘I love you, Mom.'”
That day, Sierra’s mother would get home from work to find an empty house with lights off and the front door dead-bolted.
“I was in a state of panic. I didn’t have a good feeling, just something felt wrong,” Marlene LaMar said, adding that Sierra would never have missed a hair appointment, and she did that day.
“I knew something was really bad,” she said.
Sierra LaMar’s body has never found, despite extensive searches undertaken by emergency crews and members of the community.
Danielle LaMar, Sierra’s 26-year-old sister, said on the stand that even though she was in college in Sacramento while Sierra was in high school, the two communicated at least every few days, mostly about “school, friends and boys.”
Until Sierra’s disappearance, her sister, who works as an ultrasound technician said, “We were very close.”
In his examination of Marlene and Danielle LaMar, Boyd seemed to want to make clear that if Sierra had wanted to run away, her mother or sister would have known about it.
“She pretty much communicated everything to me. She never hid anything from me,” Sierra’s mother said.
Kim Kirkpatrick started driving Sierra’s school bus route about a month before the teenager’s disappearance and knew her to be a regular rider.
When Boyd asked Kirkpatrick if Sierra had a noticeably consistent demeanor, she said: “She was always smiling… smiling getting on, smiling getting off.”
The trial is set to continue on Thursday morning.
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