Friends of Sierra LaMar take stand at murder trial

Three friends of Sierra LaMar were called to the witness stand Thursday afternoon in the trial of Antolin Garcia-Torres, the man accused of her murder and of the attempted kidnappings of three women in 2009.

Sierra, who lived just north of Morgan Hill, has not been seen or heard from since the morning of March 16, 2012, when she was 15.

Prosecutors have argued that Garcia-Torres’ DNA is on Sierra’s clothing, which was found in a field after her disappearance along with other personal items including her lunch money, makeup and inhaler.

Defense attorney Al Lopez has responded that DNA cross-contamination during the evidence collection process has jeopardized that evidence as well as evidence found in Garcia-Torres’ Volkswagen Jetta, where prosecutor David Boyd has said Sierra’s DNA was found.

Karissa Pugh, Claire Normoyle and Brittany Stonehouse, all classmates and friends of Sierra who saw and talked to her regularly before she disappeared, each testified that Sierra had not shown any sign or had any obvious reason to want to leave her friends and family as a runaway.

Each woman told Boyd that to her knowledge, Sierra had no passport, driver’s license, bank account, credit card, source of money other than her parents or anywhere to stay other than with her family.

In his cross-examination, Lopez asked Pugh whether a state ID or credit card was needed to set up an email or social media account, seeming to suggest that Sierra could have had a secret life away from her friends, a question that Superior Court Judge Vanessa Zecher said was “going a little far afield.” Lopez also attempted to lay the groundwork for the case that the DNA found on Sierra’s clothing could have belonged to someone other than Garcia-Torres.

Lopez asked Stonehouse whether she would have washed her custom San Jose Sharks sweatshirt, which Sierra wore the day she disappeared and was found later with the rest of her clothes, in the same load of her family’s laundry, to which she said yes.

Lopez also asked Pugh whether she, Sierra and their other friends would have shared jeans in addition to T-shirts, sweatshirts and sweaters, to which she answered no. Sierra’s jeans were among the items found in her backpack.

When Lopez asked Pugh whether Sierra ever talked about going to house parties, she struggled to remember until shown a police report logging an interview with a detective.

However, the defense attorney was forced to withdraw a question about whether Sierra had planned to take drugs at a party. The subject of drug use is one of the topics considered off-limits in the trial.

The trial is set to resume on Monday morning.