Inside the Mysterious Disappearance and Murder of Sierra LaMar

Sierra LaMar

The mystery of Sierra LaMar’s disappearance has baffled the public for a decade. The 15-year-old California girl was last seen walking to her school bus stop in the morning. While one man was sentenced to life in prison for her murder, she’s still never been found.

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Sierra LaMar Was Last Seen the Morning of March 16, 2022 in Morgan Hill, California

Sierra LaMar was born October 19, 1996, in Fremont, California. After her parents divorced, she relocated to Morgan Hill, in the San Jose and San Francisco Bay area, with her mother and boyfriend. She’d only attended Sobrato High School for less than one year when she disappeared.

LaMar had left for her bus stop on the morning of March 16, 2012. She never made it to school. Unfortunately, although the school sent out notifications to parents about absences, Sobrato High’s automated system didn’t do so until 6 pm.

After her mom reported her missing to the authorities, a search ensued. But the search wasn’t looking for signs of foul play. Even after some of Sierra’s belongings were found, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office didn’t have enough evidence to think there was malice involved. Sierra LaMar was simply “missing,” as far as anyone knew, for over a week.

A Widening Search Led to the Discovery of LaMar’s Cellphone and Bag

On March 17, 2012, the day after Sierra LaMar was last seen, her cell phone was found. It was lying near an intersection less than a mile from her house, fully intact. It appeared as if it may have been thrown from a vehicle. On March 18, another mile further and on Santa Teresa Boulevard, her purse was found. In it were a “neatly folded” pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

The discoveries led to an ever-expanding search, with leads coming in all day every day. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said that they were trying to follow up on all the leads, but it was hard to discern what leads were relevant. “There are so many leads  … we’re looking in all areas,” she said. One of those leads was to a handcuff box and used condoms found by a volunteer on the search team. They were found about a mile from Sierra’s bus stop.

“They found 150 things out there, condoms where kids like to park, beer cans,” said Smith.

Sgt. Jose Cardoza said they would test everything reported as potential evidence, but only because it was so close to LaMar’s home. “There’s no way to tell right now if these are related to the Sierra LaMar case,” he said.

Forensic Testing Found a Man’s DNA on Sierra’s Belongings

On March 27, the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office announced that they were treating Sierra’s disappearance as an “involuntary missing person” case. Sgt. Cardoza clarified that the term encompassed kidnapping, abduction, and even running away, but perhaps with someone who treated her maliciously. Additionally, because her house was in a secluded area, the authorities believed that she was abducted or ran away with someone who was familiar with where she lived.

Running with the idea that Sierra LaMar’s disappearance was related to someone with ill intent, the authorities began searching their databases for local sex offenders. They even considered her father, who fit the bill, but he was ruled out with further evidence.

On March 28, DNA found on Sierra’s jeans was linked to a man named Antolin Garcia-Torres. They initiated 24-hour surveillance on him. Two months later, on May 21, 2012, Garcia-Torres was arrested. He was accused of trying to kidnap three women from a Safeway parking lot — and of murdering Sierra LaMar.

Antolin Garcia-Torres Had a History of Rape, Violence, Assault

Garcia-Torres was a Safeway employee in Morgan Hill. On three separate occasions, women had gone to the police to report an attempted kidnapping. He allegedly would wait for women to return to their cars and then approach them, sometimes while using a stun gun. The assaults occurred in the parking lots of two different Safeway stores. One of those women claimed that she’d tried to defend herself with a pocket knife but that her assaulter took it out of her hand and put the blade against her throat. Each of the women said that the kidnapping was foiled when they screamed or others passed by.

Garcia-Torres also had a record of felony battery and having sex with a minor in 2010.

Further, he was married and had a 20-month-old child with his pregnant wife at the time of LaMar’s disappearance.

DNA Found in Garcia-Torres’ Red VW Jetta Had Disturbing Implications

But it wasn’t just Garcia-Torres’ record, or the DNA on Sierra LaMar’s jeans, that led the police to him. His red VW Jetta was spotted on surveillance footage from the area Sierra was last seen on March 16, 2012.

When cops seized his car, they found Sierra’s DNA on an interior car door handle. Then they found one of her hairs — stuck within a rope that was in the trunk.

The evidence was enough to suggest serious foul play. Not only did Garcia-Torres have a history of violence and rape, but the DNA on Sierra’s pants, her DNA in his car, and her hair on a rope in the trunk were enough to send chills down anyone’s spine. Prosecutors indicted him for kidnapping and murder, seeking the death penalty. He was indicted on February 11, 2014. On March 14, 2015, LaMar’s family announced that they were ending her search “with profound sadness.”

Garcia-Torres Is Still Sitting in Prison and Sierra LaMar is Presumed Murdered

The People vs. Antolin Garcia-Torres trial began on January 30, 2017. Over three months of testimony and the defense’s attempts to claim that DNA evidence was tainted led to a jury verdict of guilty. Garcia-Torres was found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of Sierra LaMar as well as the attempted kidnapping of three more women. While he was not given the death penalty, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In 2020, a curious KRON4 reporter sent Garcia-Torres a handwritten letter, asking him if he still claims to be innocent.

“Yes Amy I hold fast to my innocence,” he replied. He added that he would not talk about the case further.

Read More: The Bizarre Disappearance of Jennifer Kesse

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