Published in the January 3 -16, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

The image on the back of a shirt worn by a Sierra LaMar search volunteer several years ago. Photo by Marty Cheek

We had hoped that a sense of closure might have come to the South Valley with the recent sentencing of Antolin Garcia Torres, convicted in June for the kidnapping and murder of Sierra LaMar. Unfortunately, a question still hangs on what happened to the 15-year-old Sobrato High School student’s remains.

Garcia Torres, now 26, was kept in Santa Clara County Jail without bail since his arrest in May 2012. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office argued for the death penalty but Superior Court Judge Vanessa Zecher ruled Dec. 12 that the sentence would be life in prison without the possibility of parole. He must also register as a sex offender.

During the trial, DNA evidence played a key part in the jury’s deciding in June that Garcia Torres abducted Sierra and killed her the morning of March 16, 2012, when she was walking from her mother’s house to her school bus stop north of Morgan Hill. The material on Sierra’s clothing (which were found in a nearby field) and in Garcia Torres’s 1998 VW Jetta provided overwhelming evidence of his involvement in her disappearance.

Despite the pain and anger many in our community feel about losing Sierra, the search for the teenager’s remains united hundreds of people. Initially more than 750 people turned up at the search center. They came from not just Morgan Hill and Gilroy but throughout the Bay Area. Some came from as far away as San Diego and a few from other states.

Many of the searchers continued the quest until the effort was officially closed March 14, 2015. According to some of the search organizers, the attempt to find Sierra was the longest continuous search for an individual in U.S. history. The volunteers had undergone more than 1,130 searches in a 15-mile radius from the site of Sierra’s home — for a combined 50,000-man hours of search time. They faced hot summer days, and rainy, cold winter days, scanning local woods, ravines and thickets for any clue.

Those who could not participate in the actual search found other ways to help. Among them were the “kitchen ladies” who cooked breakfast and lunch for the searchers. A family atmosphere was created in the search, one that helped many people heal from personal losses in their own lives.

Her friends and family remember Sierra as a vibrant young woman who loved people and lived her life to the fullest. On the week of her disappearance, Sierra was planning to write an essay about suicide and depression for one of her classes. A friend was going through a trying time and she wanted to express thoughts about sadness we all at times feel.

We know it’s a long-shot, but we hope that now that Garcia Torres is behind bars for the rest of his life, he finds it in his heart to provide information on where Sierra’s remains are. This information would go a long way toward bringing a sense of closure to the family and friends and community who loved the playful teenage girl who loved to sing and dance and make people happy. Sierra was indeed “Everyone’s Daughter.”

 

Morgan Hill Life Editorial
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Morgan Hill Life Editorial

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