SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Antolin Garcia-Torres, the man convicted of kidnapping and killing Morgan Hill teenager Sierra LaMar, was sentenced by a judge to life without the possibility of parole Tuesday afternoon.
The judge in the case followed the jury recommendation with the sentence. He also said that the motive for Garcia-Torres was sexual compulsion and gratification.
Garcia-Torres additionally was sentenced to 13 years and 8 months for his prior attempted kidnappings at a Safeway store.
Garcia-Torres wanted to talk in court prior to his sentencing, but Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen wouldn’t allow it without Garcia-Torres being under oath, so he said nothing.
During the day-long sentencing hearing, defense attorney Al Lopez hammered away at lead police investigator Herman Leon, trying to convince Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Vanessa Zecher that Leon had tainted evidence in the case and that Torres deserved a new trial.
But after Leon was subjected to more than hour of grilling cross examination, Zecher ruled against a new trial.
Meanwhile, LeMar’s parents sat in the front row, holding up giant photos of their murdered daughter.
“I can only hope that your time in prison will be a living hell,” Sierra’s father Steve LaMar said at one point while addressing the convicted killer.
Sierra’s mother Marlene made it a point to speak from the witness stand so she could face her daughter’s killer.
“I find it incomprehensible you can make a choice to perform a heinous crime, to rape and murder a child. You had robbed Sierra what god had planned for her,” Marlene LaMar told Garcia-Torres in the courtroom.
There were tears, hugs and kisses outside the courthouse after the sentencing.
The end to the long ordeal for the family came after five and a half years of investigation and trial. The Lamar family finally got to tell their daughter’s convicted killer how he has devastated their lives.
There was some expressions of remorse over not having the full closure of Sierra’s body being recovered.
“It’s deeply unsatisfying we don’t know where Sierra is,” said Rosen.
When asked whether Garcia-Torres offered to cut any deals and reveal the location of Sierra’s remains, Rosen replied, “He’s more than welcome to tell us where the body is.”
“We wanted justice. What we really wanted was Sierra,” said Steve LaMar.
LaMar also shared images of his impact statement. One part of the statement read: “You have ruined our family. You have taken away from life’s most precious gift, a child.”
During the family statements, Garcia-Torres looked down, motionless, and avoided eye contact.
“Just cowardly. Just typically cowardly. He doesn’t want to face us, for sure,” said Lamar.
Garcia-Torres, 26, was convicted in May of first-degree murder for the 15-year-old girl’s death and the attempted kidnappings of three women in 2009.
The sentencing, which was originally scheduled to take place in September, was delayed as the court considered a challenge from the defense to remove Zecher from the case.
Garcia-Torres and his attorneys claimed that a conflict existed between Zecher and lead investigator Herman Leon — a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s sergeant — as she represented him as deputy county counsel in a previous civil lawsuit in 1991.
Zecher was the legal representative for Leon and other Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies in a suit 27 years ago that alleged Leon played a role in the death of Jeffrey Leonti, a mentally ill inmate, when he worked at the county’s main jail as a guard.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge denied the motion to remove Zecher and a request for a new trial in November.
The penalty phase of the trial began May 16, a week after Garcia-Torres was found guilty of the missing teen’s murder.
A jury decided not to hand Garcia-Torres the death penalty in June, sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors deliberated for around eight hours before deciding on the sentence for Garcia-Torres.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Garcia-Torres while his defense attorneys presented sympathetic evidence about the abuse, poverty and neglect his family endured as he grew up in order to sway jurors to give him a life sentence.
Garcia-Torres’ father, an alcoholic who sexually abused a female relative from age 5 to 14 while Garcia-Torres was growing up, is serving a life sentence at Salinas Valley State Prison.
Sierra’s body has not been found since she missed her bus to Ann Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill on March 16, 2012.