Sierra Lamar family to suspend formal searches

The family of missing teen Sierra LaMar will formally announce the suspension of weekly searches for her on March 14, the weekend of the third anniversary of her disappearance near Morgan Hill, KlaasKids Foundation president Marc Klaas said Tuesday.

Sierra’s family has already halted the organized searches for the their daughter, conducted in southern Santa Clara County on most Saturdays since she was reported missing on March 16, 2012, Klaas said:

“They’re suspending because they’ve run out of places to search. … They’ve been doing this for three years now.”

Klaas said the searchers have:

“… spent tens of thousands of man hours on thousands and thousands of searches. … They’ve just run out of options.”

The LaMars plan to deliver the announcement suspending weekly searches on March 14 at the Sierra LaMar Search Center at 85 Tilton Road in Morgan Hill, Klaas said:

“It’s their child and it’s their search.”

Sierra’s disappearance is the subject of a still-pending capital murder case in Superior Court in San Jose against her alleged abductor, 23-year-old Antolin Garcia-Torres, who is charged with murder with special circumstances.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen, in a letter to Judge Thang Barrett last May, stated that his office would seek the death penalty in the case.

The 15-year-old Sierra was alone when she left her home in unincorporated Morgan Hill near Palm and Dougherty avenues early in the morning for a bus stop on the way to school, but she never arrived.

Her cellphone was soon found about 20 feet off of a roadway in an agricultural area near Santa Teresa Boulevard and Scheller Avenue just south of San Jose and sheriff’s deputies said she sent a text from her home to a friend at 7 a.m. the day she went missing but it did not indicate she was in any distress.

On March 18, 2012, her Juicy-brand bag containing folded clothing was recovered about two miles from her home. With the assistance of KlaasKids founder Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter Polly was kidnapped from her Petaluma home in 1993, more than 600 people showed up to search for Sierra on March 27, 2012 and another 250 came out the next day.

Volunteers continued to hunt for her remains on Wednesdays and Saturdays for six months until organizers scaled search efforts back to Saturdays only in September 2012. During an investigation, sheriff’s deputies interviewed more than 100 people, many of them students at high schools in Morgan Hill and Fremont that the girl attended and used K-9 units to scour a 3-mile radius of her home to find her body, including outside the nearby Uvas, Calero and Chesbro Reservoirs.

Deputies arrested Garcia-Torres on May 21, 2012 on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering Sierra. He is still being held without bail at the county Main Jail in San Jose. The sheriff’s office made the arrest after investigators said they found DNA linked to the girl inside Garcia-Torres’ red Volkswagen Jetta.

He is also charged with three counts of attempted kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking in connection with assaults against three women — in the days after Sierra went missing — on March 19 and March 26, 2012, in Safeway parking lots in Morgan Hill.┬áThe defendant has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

The next hearing in his case is set for April 8 in Department 24 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose. Klaas said some of the dedicated volunteers seeking to locate Sierra told him that even though the weekly searches would end, they would not stop looking for her.