South Bay News

Sierra LaMar murder suspect in court, no plea entered

Friday, June 01, 2012

The man charged with kidnapping and murdering missing Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar was back in court for a second time, but we will have to wait until at least July to hear how he will plead in this case. Police are now looking back over old cases to see if there's any connection to Antolin Garcia-Torres.

Garcia-Torres also did not enter a plea for the second time. This murder case, with the special circumstances of kidnapping, could potentially take years, especially if the district attorney decides to pursue the death penalty.

In court he respectfully answered the judge when he was asked if he would waive his legal right to a speedy trial. He said, "Yes, I do your honor."

Prosecutors have charged Garcia-Torres with one count of murder in the disappearance of 15-year-old Sierra. Morgan Hill police say they also have solid evidence Garcia-Torres is responsible for the assault of a woman in 2009.

"That case has been completed and sent to the district attorney for review and possible prosecution," said Morgan Hill Police Sgt. Troy Hoefling.

Legal experts say that possible assault charge could play a key role in how the case against Garcia-Torres moves forward.

"Those charges may go first and they may try first to get him convicted of that. That could bolster their case if there is a pattern of this type of behavior," said Steve Clark, a criminal defense attorney.

Investigators found Sierra's DNA in Garcia-Torres red Jetta and his DNA on her clothing, but despite 10 weeks of both ground and water searches, there has been no sign of the missing teenager. Sierra's family is not ready to face her accused killer in court.

"It's just a little too emotional still. We're definitely going to be at some in the future," said Steve LaMar, Sierra's father.

As the search for Sierra continues, Morgan Hill police say they are reviewing their open cases dating back five years.

"We're seeing if we have any evidence or any similarities that could tie Mr. Garcia-Torres into those as well," said Hoefling.

There is one certainty in Sierra's case, the outpouring of support for the family in Morgan Hill extends to the courthouse in San Jose.

"My son is friends with Sierra, and so it is a little more personal for me, but I also think it is really important to show support for the family," said Elaine Petrakis, a LaMar family supporter.

The suspect's family and his defense attorney have not made themselves available for comment. The judge set the next court appearance for July 10.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
missing person, santa clara county, morgan hill, sierra lamar, crime, murder, south bay news, karina rusk
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