Sierra LaMar’s killer avoids death sentence

A Santa Clara County Superior Court jury Monday imposed a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for Antolin Garcia-Torres, declining to impose the death penalty following his conviction last month of the first-degree murder of missing teen Sierra LaMar in 2012 and the attempted kidnappings of three women in 2009.

The verdict was read this afternoon at San Jose’s Hall of Justice and came after about eight cumulative hours of penalty phase deliberations, beginning Wednesday afternoon.

The penalty phase of the trial began May 16, a week after Garcia-Torres was found guilty of the missing teen’s murder on March 16, 2012.

Sierra’s body has not been found since she missed her school bus to Ann Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill that morning.

Garcia-Torres was arrested two months after the girl’s disappearance when his DNA was found on her clothing, which was recovered in a field near her bus stop.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Garcia-Torres’ mother, sister and cousins testified about the poverty, abuse, incest, neglect, loss, incarceration and addiction that have afflicted the defendant and his family throughout his life.

The defense presented the mitigating evidence in order to evoke sympathy for Garcia-Torres, but was not legally allowed to present it as an explanation for the crimes committed.