Two months ago, on March 16, 15-year-old Sierra Lamar of Morgan Hill, California, unaccountably vanished while walking to her school bus stop.
Two days later, Lamar's clothes and cell phone were found neatly folded near her house. Deputies, learning that Lamar had no history of runaway attempts, and that Lamar, in fact, showed no warning signs of running away, ruled the case a kidnapping. Missing Posters in both English and Spanish went up almost immediately.
However, as time dragged on, the police began to suspect that Lamar was dead, even as her parents held out hope. Nevertheless, one positive development did come out of the long process - a suspect was discovered. Meet Antolin Garcia Torres:
When Torres first became a suspect on March 28, police did not directly approach him, but instead kept him under 24 hour surveillance in the hopes that he would lead them to where Lamar was hidden. However, after nearly two months of this, it became clear that the tactic would not work, and that an arrest was necessary to keep Torres from hurting anyone else. He was arrested today in his former workplace, a Morgan Hill Safeway.
Watch this ABC News report on the arrest for more details:
Torres is now in custody, and so far no progress has been made on uncovering whether he was, in fact, responsible for the disappearance of Sierra Lamar. However, at least one (admittedly biased) person has come forward suggesting that Torres is not responsible after all - his sister. The Los Angeles Times reports:
The sister of a Northern California man accused in the kidnapping and killing of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar said Tuesday that authorities have the wrong person.
Lucero Garcia, 26, told the San Jose Mercury News that the arrest of her brother, Antolin Garcia-Torres, 21, was "unfair." She acknowledged that family members often defend criminal suspects but says she is standing by her brother.
"It's not him," Garcia said. "I honestly feel they don't have enough evidence to convict him."[...]
Isovet Martinez, Garcia's boyfriend, told the Mercury News that authorities suspected Garcia-Torres "because of his image, but image isn't anything."
Readers can make up their own mind as to whether the sister's defense sounds plausible, but it's unclear that a defense that blames his arrest on police racism will fly with the legal system. Especially considering that the police found Lamar's DNA in Garcia-Torres' car:
In any case, the whereabouts of Sierra Lamar remain a mystery. As already stated, police believe her to be dead, though her parents are convinced there's still a chance she's alive. Lamar's school, though, has opted for the hypothesis that the former student is dead, and hundreds of pink balloons to commemorate her in a vigil last month.
The Associated Press has a lengthy report on the story's developments thus far, excerpted below:
A man was in custody Tuesday on suspicion of murder and kidnapping after his DNA was found in the bag of a missing girl whose abduction was believed to be a random act of violence, authorities said.
In addition, the DNA of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar was found in the red Volkswagen Jetta of suspect Antolin Garcia-Torres, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said.
The victim and suspect did not know each other, Smith said.[...]
Garcia-Torres, 21, was linked to the case after his DNA -- taken during a previous assault arrest -- was linked to clothing found in the bag. authorities said. He was not charged in the previous case.
Garcia-Torres was arrested Monday -- more than two months after Sierra's disappearance prompted hundreds of volunteers to turn out for searches and authorities conducting more than 12,000 hours of investigation.
Sierra was last seen leaving her home in Morgan Hill to go to school on March 16. Authorities believe she was kidnapped while walking to a school bus stop.
Her mother, Marlene LaMar, said the family is holding out hope that the teen is still alive. She pleaded with Garcia-Torres to disclose her whereabouts.
"Please, please give the information that you have to lead us to Sierra to help end this nightmare," LaMar said.
Garcia-Torres, also of Morgan Hill, had been under 24-hour surveillance since March 28. His vehicle was seized on April 7. The DNA evidence used to arrest him also links him to at least one assault in March 2009, Smith said.
So there you have it. Looks like a classic case of the bad guy getting caught.