Sierra LaMar murder suspect gets trial date

A trial has been scheduled for Antolin Garcia-Torres on murder and kidnapping charges in the case of a 15-year-old girl reported missing near Morgan Hill nearly three years ago.

Garcia-Torres was scheduled for trial on April 25, 2016 on charges of murder and kidnapping Sierra LaMar, who was reported missing on March 16, 2012.

Garcia-Torres wore a beige suit and yellow-collared shirt during his appearance at the Hall of Justice in San Jose this afternoon before Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett.

Garcia-Torres was arrested on May 21, 2012 on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering Sierra and is being held without bail at the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose.

In a May 2014 letter to Barrett, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said his office is planning on seeking the death penalty in the case.

On the morning of March 16, 2012, Sierra never showed up at a bus stop along her route to school, according to a statement of facts filed in the case.

Sierra did not go to school that day and later in the evening her mother reported the girl missing to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

Garcia-Torres was arrested on May 21, 2012, after investigators found Sierra’s DNA inside his red Volkswagen Jetta, sheriff’s officials said.

Weekly organized searches for Sierra were held soon after she was reported missing but her body has not yet been found.

In February 2014, Garcia-Torres was indicted by a criminal grand jury on kidnapping and murder charges involving Sierra in addition to kidnapping and carjacking charges of three women at supermarket parking lots in Morgan Hill in 2009.

In June 2014, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Griffin Bonini ordered the transcripts from the grand jury proceedings to be publicly released.

Garcia-Torres’ defense attorneys with the county’s Alternate Defender’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the grand jury indictment today.

The 57-page motion states that the prosecution did not present the grand jury with “exculpatory evidence” that “caused the defendant to suffer substantial prejudice.” The evidence included statements Sierra made about intending to run away the day she was reported missing, according to the defense attorneys.

The defense attorneys also claim the grand jury saw evidence in Sierra’s case and the 2009 incidents that should not have been on the same charging document.

If the motion is granted, the prosecution may have another chance to present their case at a preliminary hearing, legal analyst Steven Clark said.

The motion “is a signal that the defense is starting to fight aggressively on behalf of Garcia-Torres,” he said.

Clark, a former Santa Clara County deputy district attorney, said it would be hard to move the case out of the county on a pre-trial change of venue motion:

“It is unlikely going to be granted but certainly will be brought.”

The organized search for Sierra was suspended in March, just before the third anniversary of her disappearance, but volunteer Debbie Nunes said about 20 to 25 people still continue to look for Sierra at least once a month.

Nunes and five other volunteers were inside the courtroom today for today’s hearing. They brought a large poster and wore pins bearing Sierra’s picture.

Nunes said:

“We’re glad that a trial date has been set. That just means the family will get closure sometime soon hopefully.”