Friends, family and strangers to missing Morgan Hill 15-year-old Sierra LaMar gathered to raise awareness and pray for the teenager’s safe return at a prayer vigil in Morgan Hill Tuesday night.
Marlene LaMar, Sierra’s mother, and other family members addressed the crowd of more than 100 people outside the Morgan Hill Presbyterian Church on West Dunne Avenue. The vigil was held on the fifth day of Sierra’s sudden disappearance, and many came from Fremont where Sierra and her mother lived before moving to Morgan Hill five months ago.
“I want you back. I love you and I just want you back,” Marlene LaMar pleaded through tears to her daughter in case she was watching or reading any of the news reports covering the incident.
Sierra LaMar was reported missing Friday, after her family learned she did not attend school that day. Her family and police think she disappeared sometime between 6 a.m., when she usually wakes up, and 7:15 a.m., when she starts walking to her school bus stop a few hundred yards from her home in north Morgan Hill.
The purpose of the prayer vigil was to keep the teen’s disappearance a “white-hot” issue on national news and among the community until LaMar safely returns to her parents, according to Greg Quirke, pastor of South Valley Community Church and a chaplain for the Gilroy Police Department.
The story was featured on HLN’s “Nancy Grace” TV show Tuesday night and NBC’s “Today Show” dedicated an early morning segment to covering the vigil.
Friends from Morgan Hill, San Jose and Fremont circulated fliers with Sierra’s picture and description during the event. Some wore T-shirts with her picture printed on the front.
“The reason we’re here tonight is because of the unthinkable,” Quirke said to the crowd. “We are eyes and we are ears, and we are a growing representation of an entire nation that has adopted Sierra as their daughter.”
The pastor then led the group in a prayer for her safe return, and asked for a moment of silence to honor the missing teen. Tears were shed and candles were lit throughout the crowd as Quirke’s wife sang “Amazing Grace.”
Sierra LaMar moved to Morgan Hill from Fremont in October. She attended Washington High School, where she was a cheerleader and danced with a local dance team. Many of her former classmates from that school attended the Tuesday vigil.
One of her friends from Fremont, Ashley Stange, 17, said the mood at Washington High was “sad.” Sierra still has friends at the school, and many of them have spent the week so far making fliers to spread the word about her disappearance. The student body started off the day with a prayer for LaMar Monday morning.
“I want her home safe and I pray for her every night,” Stange said. She added that Sierra is a “warm-hearted and caring person,” and it’s unlikely she ran away on her own.
Authorities from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office do not yet have any evidence that LaMar was kidnapped or disappeared as a result of any criminal incident. Her cell phone was found Saturday night in a field about three-quarters of a mile away from her home, in a field near the intersection of Scheller Avenue and Santa Teresa Boulevard. That’s in the opposite direction of where she usually picks up the school bus, at Palm and Dougherty avenues.
Some of those at the vigil did not know Sierra or her family, but wanted to contribute to the effort to find her through prayers and support.
Ginette Nehamkin, 54 of Morgan Hill, said that incidents such as LaMar’s disappearance are unheard of in Morgan Hill. She wanted her daughter, who attends Silicon Valley Flex Academy and is about the same age as LaMar, to attend the vigil because she often walks or rides her bicycle through town with no adult supervision.
Sierra’s father, Steve LaMar, also addressed the vigil, thanking the police and deputies, and everyone who has helped spread the word about her daughter’s disappearance.
“Sierra, we can’t wait for you to come home. We can’t wait to see you dance again, and we can’t wait to see you cheer again. You have to come home before Saturday because you have a hair appointment,” he said, offering a lighter moment to the hopeful crowd.
Sierra is about 5-feet, 2-inches tall with a thin build and dark hair. She was last seen with a black and pink “Juicy Couture” brand purse, authorities said. She has no prior history of running away.
Anyone with information on the case can contact Santa Clara County Communications at (408) 299-2311. During normal business hours callers can call Sheriff’s Investigators at (408) 808-4500 or the anonymous tip line at (408) 808-4431. Information or tips can also be sent via the Sheriff’s Office website at: http://www.sccgov.org/portal/site/sheriff/
Information can also be submitted by text at (408) 421-6760.