Opening statements began in a San Jose courtroom Monday afternoon in the long-awaited trial of a man charged with murdering Sierra LaMar, a 15-year-old girl from rural Morgan Hill who has not been seen or heard from since March 16, 2012.
Antolin Garcia-Torres, now 25, has also been charged with attempting to kidnap three women in separate incidents in Morgan Hill in March 2009. He pleaded not guilty to all four charges.
“Sierra LaMar is dead, and this man killed her,” prosecutor David Boyd began, pointing to Garcia-Torres, who looked calm and composed in a gray sweater, a gelled undercut hairstyle and clean shave.
Boyd clicked through a slideshow, projecting a photo Sierra took of herself on her MacBook Pro in a borrowed San Jose Sharks sweatshirt, with her hair curled and her tongue sticking out.
Within the hour, Sierra had disappeared, Boyd said.
The photo was taken at 7:12 a.m. on March 16, 2012 at her home in the Perry area north of Morgan Hill.
Sierra normally caught the school bus around 7:30 a.m. and had made plans to meet up with her friend Karissa Pugh that morning, Boyd said.
“Sierra never made that bus. She never made that meeting. She never made it to school. … It is a parent’s worst nightmare.”
Boyd played the 911 call recording of Marlene LaMar’s panicked, then choked-up, crying voice, reporting Sierra’s disappearance to dispatchers at 6:27 p.m.
Security video images showed Garcia-Torres’ distinctive 1998 Volkswagen Jetta leaving the Maple Leaf RV Park where he lived 8 miles south of Sierra’s bus stop at 7 a.m. the morning she disappeared.
Further slides showed images of the rope and gloves where Sierra’s DNA had been found in the trunk of the Jetta, as well as Sierra’s backpack containing all of her clothing, bra, underwear, and other essentials like her inhaler and her lunch money.
“What does that leave Sierra?” Boyd asked. “That leaves her naked.”
Sierra’s jeans and sweatshirt, Boyd argued, were found with dirt stains consistent with stains that would be left if Sierra had been on her back, dragged by her feet.
Reflective beads found in some roads were also found on her clothing. Her jeans also had a strong scent of human urine, Boyd said.
On March 13, 2012, three days before Sierra’s disappearance, Garcia-Torres’ Safeway club card records reveal that he bought a 20-gallon jug of bleach and a turkey baster, neither of which was found in his trailer, Boyd said:
“Bleach breaks down DNA.”
Sierra’s body has never been found, and a few of the hundreds of volunteers who helped search for her showed up for the first day of the trial, some wearing the red Converse sneakers she loved.
Sierra, Boyd said, had “no reason to abandon everything she knew, loved and cared about.” One of Garcia-Torres’ defense attorneys, Al Lopez, will have the opportunity to give an opening statement later in the week.
Steve LaMar told reporters outside the courthouse:
“We’re all glad this day has finally come. … We’ve waited a long time for it.”