Month has been a ‘nightmare’

Andrea Medina, left, and her co-worker Olga Barrios, from Green Mountain Coffe Roasters in Castroville volunteer their time Wednesday with a search and rescue group to look for evidence in the disappearance of Sierra LaMar off Betabel Road south of Gilroy

The family of Sierra LaMar and a community that remains devoted to finding her marked the one-month anniversary of her disappearance with a scheduled prayer vigil and balloon release Monday night.

More than 30 days after Sierra, 15 of Morgan Hill, was reported missing March 16, police continue to find traces of what happened to her and investigate the likely crime that resulted in the disappearance.

Sierra’s family planned to host the vigil and balloon release at Burnett Elementary School, which has been converted into a temporary search center for the Sobrato High School sophomore since March 20.

“This month has truly been a nightmare,” said Sierra’s father Steve LaMar. “But our volunteers have given us faith, hope and the perseverance to continue in our search efforts.”

Investigators think Sierra, who moved to north Morgan Hill from Fremont with her mother and mother’s boyfriend in October 2011, was abducted while walking to her usual school bus stop at Palm and Dougherty avenues the morning of March 16.

“It’s like she literally just vanished,” said Sierra’s mother Marlene LaMar. “We just want her home safe.”

Detectives found Sierra’s cell phone in a field just off the side of Scheller Avenue March 17 – about three-quarters of a mile from her home. The next day they found her purse which contained some of her clothing about another mile north, off the shoulder of Santa Teresa Boulevard.

The county crime lab is still processing the items for any possible evidence.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, along with other agencies including San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, and the FBI, have logged more than 8,900 staff hours investigating the disappearance. The sheriff’s office has also investigated more than 1,400 tips it has received by email and phone calls.

Last week, the sheriff’s office used its dive team and sonar photography to take a closer look at suspicious underwater areas in Chesbro and Uvas reservoirs, but did not report finding anything with a connection to Sierra’s case, sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Cardoza said.

Also last week, the sheriff’s off-road enforcement unit canvassed the most rural, remote areas in South County, Cardoza added.

The KlaasKids Foundation, a nonprofit that provides search-and-rescue services to the families of missing children, announced it will organize more volunteer searches to find evidence of what happened to Sierra.

The searches will take place Wednesday as well as Saturday and Sunday, according to a press release from KlaasKids. Anyone interested can show up at Burnett Elementary School, 85 Tilton Ave., from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. all three days. Volunteers must be at least 18 and present a valid photo identification.

Search efforts last weekend were well attended by both new and returning volunteers who have participated in previous searches organized by KlaasKids. More than 600 volunteers of all ages participated in Saturday’s and Sunday’s searches, according to the foundation.

More than 56 volunteer teams were dispatched to the field to search, extending the search radius to 20 miles from Sierra’s home.

A $10,000 reward remains on the table for information leading to Sierra’s safe return. The reward is offered by Sierra’s family.

Volunteers also made and were selling T-shirts last week depicting one of the flyers posted throughout town, declaring the teen missing and providing her vital information. The T-shirts were selling for $10 each and proceeds were going to the Sierra LaMar Fund which supports the reward and search efforts.

Sierra LaMar is about 5-feet, 2-inches tall with a thin build and dark hair.

For more information on the Sierra LaMar Search Center, call 201-6364.

Anyone with information on the case can contact Santa Clara County Communications at 299-2311, or e-mail [email protected] 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 sccgov.org/portal/site/sheriff or by text at 421-6760.

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