SAN JOSE (AP) – A jury has found a man guilty of killing a 15-year-old Northern California girl whose body has not been discovered.
Following the verdict Tuesday, the jury in San Jose will now consider whether to recommend the death penalty for Antolin Garcia-Torres for killing and kidnapping of Sierra LaMar. Sierra disappeared March 16, 2012, on her way to a school bus stop near her home in Morgan Hill, which is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of San Jose.
Her school books, purse and clothing were found near a shed in a field about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from her home two days later.
Police arrested Garcia-Torres, 26, two months later after investigators found his DNA – taken during a previous assault arrest – in her handbag. They also found Sierra’s DNA in his red Volkswagen Jetta and one of her hairs on a rope found in the trunk of his car.
Prosecutors said they believe Garcia-Torres is a predator and that his kidnapping attempts of other women helped him prepare for Sierra’s abduction and murder. Garcia-Torres pleaded not guilty to charges of trying to kidnap and carjack three women in 2009 as they returned to their cars late at night in Morgan Hill parking lots.
Sheriff’s officials have said Sierra and Garcia-Torres did not know each other and that they believe her abduction was a random act of violence. Garcia-Torres lived about 7 miles (11.3 kilometers) from LaMar in a trailer he shared with his mother, girlfriend and young daughter.
Investigators said surveillance cameras and witnesses put Garcia-Torres’ car near the area where authorities believe Sierra disappeared.
Garcia-Torres’ attorney, Alfonso Lopez, argued in a closing statement last week that the prosecution’s case was built on “shame evidence,” and that without a body, prosecutors could not prove Sierra is even dead.
Lopez also tried to cast doubt on the physical evidence, arguing that the DNA and hair may have been corrupted by investigators and crime laboratory technicians.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.