A guide to facts behind the teen’s disappearance

A Santa Clara County Sheriff Search and Rescue team walks through a field along Santa Teresa Blvd. between Scheller Avenue and Richmond Avenue Saturday.

The answers to the following questions should help summarize what’s happened so far in the Sierra LaMar investigation, inform how the community can help, and provide some useful  background to the case.

What evidence do the police have that makes them think Sierra is involuntarily missing or perhaps abducted?

“The totality of the circumstances” gleaned so far from more than 100 interviews with Sierra’s family, friends and acquaintances; forensic examinations of her cell phone and laptop computer; the fact that her cell phone, purse and some of her clothing were found in two separate roadside locations just north of her home, all reveal that Sierra has no history of running, had no known intent to run away on her own and did not suffer from a troubled home or personal life before her disappearance, according to Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Cardoza.

Furthermore, these factors along with the fact that Sierra and her family live in a “secluded area” at the end of a rural cul-de-sac suggest the person responsible for her disappearance lives in or are familiar with Morgan Hill.

How can I assist the search?

The Sierra LaMar Search Center is open at Burnett Elementary School through and including Sunday for any volunteers who want to help search. The school is located at 85 Tilton Ave. Interested volunteers can report to the search center from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Searchers must be at least 18 and present a valid photo ID.

The search center is organizing a “teen brigade” volunteer search squad for the weekend. That effort will allow teens younger than 18 to help, and those interested can report to the search center at the times listed above.

The volunteer efforts are organized by KlaasKids Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit that is devoted to finding missing children.

Searchers do not need prior search or detective experience. Volunteers will be briefed on basic search techniques by experienced KlaasKids staff before being deployed to specific locations.

The search center is also accepting donations of supplies such as bottled water, food for the volunteers and first-aid supplies. To contact the search center, call (408) 201-6364.

Anyone with information on the case can contact Santa Clara County Communications at 299-2311, or send an e-mail to [email protected]

During normal business hours callers can call Sheriff’s Investigators at 808-4500 or the anonymous tip line at 808-4431. Information or tips can also be sent via the Sheriff’s Office website at sccgov.org/portal/site/sheriff. Information can also be submitted by text at 421-6760.

How many people have police interviewed?

More than 100 people, some of whom have been interviewed more than once, according to Cardoza. Interviewees include Sierra’s family, friends and acquaintances from both Morgan Hill and Fremont, where Sierra moved from in October 2011. Interviewees also include registered sexual crimes offenders in the South County area.

How many children are abducted and never found in the U.S. each year?

From the FBI’s National Crime Information Center website: “As of Dec. 31, 2010, NCIC contained 85,820 active missing person records. Juveniles younger than 18 account for 38,505 (44.9 percent) of the records and 10,248 (11.9 percent) were for those between 18 and 20.

“During 2010, 692,944 missing person records were entered into NCIC, a decrease of 3.7 percent from the 719,558 records entered in 2009.”

Also in 2010, 18,754 missing persons younger than 21 were classified as “endangered,” and 9,948 of those younger than 21 missing were “involuntarily” missing, according to the NCIC.

The KlaasKids Foundation notes that the number of missing persons reported to law enforcement increased from 154, 341 in 1982 to 876,213 in 2000. Of the 692,944 people of all ages reported missing in 2010, 46,397 were found, according to the FBI.

Do police think Sierra may have known the person who abducted her?

Sierra’s designation as an “involuntary missing person” could mean one of a number of things, according to Cardoza: She might have been kidnapped or abducted by a stranger, by force or threat; or she voluntary ran away but ended up with someone who turned out to have malicious intent.

No evidence found so far has pointed more heavily toward one of these options, Cardoza added.

Did registered sex offenders check out?

Investigators plan on contacting all 267 registered sex offenders in the South County area (144 in Gilroy, 101 in Morgan Hill, and 22 in San Martin), Cardoza said. They have interviewed those who live within a 10-mile radius of Sierra’s home. No one has been arrested in relation to Sierra’s disappearance.

6 a.m. March 16 – Sierra LaMar’s mother Marlene, and her mother’s boyfriend Rick Gardiner, left their home where they live with Sierra.
6:29 a.m. March 16 – The last “tweet” Sierra posted to her Twitter account.
7:10 to 7:15 a.m. March 16 – LaMar usually leaves home to start walking to her bus stop at Palm and Dougherty avenues.
7:11 a.m. March 16 – LaMar sent a text from her cell phone to a friend of hers. The content of the message is undisclosed.
6:30 p.m. March 16 – Sierra LaMar reported missing, after her family learned she did not attend school that day.
March 17 – Tracking dogs deployed at Sierra’s home, losing scent at the end of the driveway. LaMar’s cell phone found near Scheller Avenue and Santa Teresa Boulevard.
March 18 – LaMar’s “Juicy” brand purse, containing pants, T-shirt and underclothes found near Santa Teresa Boulevard and Laguna Avenue.
March 19 – Authorities begin interviewing friends, classmates and former classmates of Sierra’s. Interviews with sex offenders within a 10-mile radius of LaMar’s home begin.
March 20 – Police announce they have interviewed more than 100 people and investigated more than 150 tips related to the investigation.
March 21 – Search intensifies with more tracking dogs, search-and-rescue volunteers and more personnel from multiple agencies including the FBI. The search includes  a wider land area surrounding Sierra’s home.
March 24 and 25 – More than 60 sworn search-and-rescue officers from Santa Clara County and three nearby counties conducted a widespread search of areas within 12 miles of Palm and Dougherty avenues, plus other remote areas in south county that might be capable of concealing a crime.
Tuesday – The sheriff’s office announced they are treating Sierra’s disappearance as an “involuntary missing person,” declaring it is unlikely she is missing because she wants to be. Also, the KlaasKids Foundation invited volunteers to help in the search, attracting more than 1,400 searchers throughout the week.
Wednesday – Investigators started another intensified search-and-rescue effort, covering areas between Palm and Bailey avenues. That effort included the sheriff’s office dive team, who searched reservoirs and ponds in the area.

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