SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A California jury recommended life in prison without parole Monday for a man convicted of abducting and killing a teen girl who disappeared in 2012 on her way to school and whose body has not been found despite dozens of searches.
A judge will decide later whether to adopt the recommendation by jurors, who could have urged a death sentence. The same San Jose jury convicted Antolin Garcia-Torres of killing Sierra LaMar, 15, who vanished in Morgan Hills, a rural community about 23 miles (37 kilometers) south of San Jose.
He also was found guilty of trying to kidnap three other women from grocery store parking lots in 2009.
Garcia-Torres, 26, has denied killing the teenager. Two days after she disappeared, LaMar’s purse, school books and clothing were found near a shed in a field near where she was last seen alive. Investigators say the mud on her clothes suggests she was dragged by her assailant.
Garcia-Torres was arrested after his genetic material was found on her pants. He had been required to submit a DNA sample to police when he was previously arrested on an unrelated assault charge.
Investigators found a strand of LaMar’s hair on rope that was in the trunk of Garcia-Torres’ car.
Video surveillance also captured him leaving his trailer park on the morning of LaMar’s disappearance, but he could not account for his whereabouts until six hours later when he cashed a check, investigators said. He said he was fishing alone.
Garcia-Torres’ attorney, Alfonso Lopez, told jurors during the trial that LaMar may have run away because she was upset that she was moving over of her parents’ divorce.
Because of legal challenges, no inmate has been executed in California since January 2006. There are 747 inmates sentenced to die in the state, the nation’s largest death row by far.