Antolin Garcia-Torres, 26, was found guilty by a Santa Clara County Superior Court jury in San Jose Tuesday morning for the first-degree murder of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar in 2012.
Sierra has not been seen or heard from since March 16, 2012, and Garcia-Torres was arrested on May 21, 2012, after investigators found his DNA on her jeans, which were recovered near where she went missing outside of Morgan Hill.
Sierra’s DNA was also found on an interior backseat door handle and on the outside of a pair of work gloves in Garcia-Torres’ car.
The jury, which began deliberating Thursday morning after a 13-week trial and announced that they had reached a verdict Monday afternoon, also convicted Garcia-Torres of the attempted kidnappings of three women in Safeway parking lots in 2009.
All 129 seats were taken in the main courtroom and an overflow room with a live video feed of the proceedings this morning, leaving more than a dozen observers standing.
Some of the more than 750 volunteers who searched for Sierra after she went missing arrived more than an hour before the verdict was read.
Observers in the overflow room erupted in applause and loud cheers as many volunteers cried and embraced each other after the verdict was read.
Garcia-Torres, wearing a button-down shirt and blue tie, looked down with his hands under the table after Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Vanessa Zecher read the verdict.
Extra sheriff’s deputies provided special security in both courtrooms.
Members of the defense team and Garcia-Torres’ family and friends, who had sat behind him in the courtroom but have not been in attendance for most of the trial, declined to comment as they left the courthouse.
Sierra’s mother Marlene LaMar spoke outside of the courthouse of the “sorrow we’ve experienced every day, that we will continue to experience for the rest of our lives” despite the verdict.
Steve LaMar, Sierra’s father, said he felt “a rush of emotions” when the verdict was read:
“All that anticipation, I think it’s all pent up, all the years of frustration, not finding answers, not finding her.”
Steve LaMar said he was glad the death penalty was still on the table.
The penalty phase of the trial, in which the jury will decide between the death penalty and life in prison without parole, is set to begin on May 16.