The beloved fairy tale Beauty and the Beast ends happily ever after, but alas, this real life tale of Beauty and the Beast may have tragedy written all over it.
Sierra Lamar has been missing since shortly after leaving home for the school bus at about 7:15 a.m. on March 16, 2012. Sixty-six days later, at approximately 6:00 p.m. on May 21, 2012, Antolin Garcia-Torres was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murdering the vivacious 15-year-old Morgan Hill high school student. The Sierra LaMar task force has had the 21-year-old Safeway Supermarket employee under surveillance since March 28, after DNA linked him to items found in Sierra’s Juicy Couture bag. The Juicy bag was discovered by the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team two days after Sierra disappeared.
His DNA was on file in the nationwide CODIS database because California law allows for DNA collection in cases of felony arrest. Garcia-Torres has a misdemeanor conviction for interfering with a police officer as well as a past arrest for felony assault. The felony assault charge was ultimately dropped, but not before his DNA was extracted. There are many who argue that collecting DNA without a conviction is a privacy violation. Without that linkage, this creep might still be on the loose and young girls in Santa Clara County would still be endangered.
A red VW Jetta with a black hood and sunroof that is owned by Garcia-Torres has been in law enforcement custody since April 7. It was identified as a vehicle of interest through witness accounts and surveillance video. Forensic testing has been conducted on the vehicle, and although some test results remain outstanding, the authorities have evidence that places Sierra in the red Jetta. That means that Sierra and Garcia-Torres can be linked at two separate crime scenes: the location of the Juicy Couture bag and the vehicle owned by and registered to the suspect.
This sucker has a history, has assaulted women in the past but is not a registered sex offender. Besides the misdemeanor conviction and felony arrest Garcia-Torres has also been linked to at least one of three 2009 unsolved assaults on young women in Morgan Hill. During her press conference Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith alluded to the fact that, “Since January of 2011 in Santa Clara County alone there are 43 missing females that have never returned home.” Was she suggesting that Garcia-Torres might be a serial killer?
The arrest was made for public safety concerns. Although the Sheriff had hoped that he would lead them to Sierra’s remains, he has not done so. It was quickly noted that surveillance isn’t perfect and that anybody who would kidnap and kill a young girl poses an extreme safety threat. The authorities are still seeking information from the public that will help establish the timeline that will lead them to Sierra.
There is no evidence whatsoever that Sierra had ever met or had knowledge of the suspect’s existence. It is believed that Garcia-Torres acted alone and that it was a random crime of opportunity. This makes it one of the most frightening and difficult crimes to solve for they are looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. It is a large world full of billions of people and she is a small girl.
Garcia-Torres is a small time thug who has always lived in Morgan Hill. Although the task force has spoken with him several times, he had not been questioned in a controlled environment until after his arrest last night.
After KTVU broke the story last night I called Sierra’s mother Marlene. I asked her, based on this latest development, if she wanted us to continue looking for her daughter. Her answer was an emphatic, “Absolutely!”
Garcia-Torres has been charged with kidnapping and murder, but he does not have an extensive criminal history, has not been previously charged with murder or rape, there is no weapon, we don’t know how Sierra was killed, and her remains have not been found. Perhaps there has been a rush to judgment. Perhaps Sierra is alive after all. It is now up to us to find the truth.
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