Sheriff wraps up water searches for Sierra

Missing 15-year-old teen Sierra LaMar

Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies Monday finished up the search of Uvas reservoir for the remains of missing teen Sierra LaMar or any sign of where she might be, authorities said. 

Now that the sheriff’s dive team is done searching the surface and the depths – via diving and sonar imaging – of reservoirs, lakes and other waterways throughout south Santa Clara County, further searches – in the water and on land – will only be conducted based on tips and leads on the teen’s disappearance, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Cardoza. 

“They’re going to go into standby mode, and do targeted searches from here on out,” Cardoza said. 

Sierra, 15, has been missing since March 16. 

Antolin Garcia Torres, 21 of Morgan Hill, was arrested and charged in May on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering the Sobrato High School sophomore, authorities said. 

Investigators think Garcia Torres kidnapped Sierra as she was walking to her school bus stop near the intersection of Palm and Dougherty avenues – about half a mile from her home. 

Monday’s search of Uvas reservoir was a continuation of a previous search of the reservoir, and was not based on new information or the fact that Garcia Torres’ family has told the media and others that the suspect went fishing at the lake on the day of Sierra’s disappearance, Cardoza said. 

“They had a handful of sonar images from a few weeks ago they needed to send divers in to verify,” he said. 

Authorities have not reported recovering any hard evidence that the teen is dead, but they will attempt to prosecute Garcia Torres for her murder anyway. 

The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office thinks she is dead based on her complete lack of contact with anyone – via telephone or digital social media – since March 16, and on the fact that she has no independent means of financial support. 

Her last contact with the world took place about 7:11 a.m. the day she disappeared, when she sent a text message to a friend from school, authorities said. The two planned to meet up at school to share makeup and compare homework. 

Sierra did not make it to her school bus that day, and did not make it to school, police said. Her parents reported her missing the evening of March 16 when they returned home from work and learned the teen was not at school all day. 

Authorities also reported that DNA evidence links Garcia Torres to Sierra’s disappearance. The suspect’s DNA was allegedly found on some of Sierra’s clothing and purse discarded in a field about two miles from her home, and her DNA was found in Garcia Torres’ red Volkswagen. 

The suspect and Sierra did not know each other before her disappearance, and do not have any friends in common, investigators said. 

Garcia Torres’ next hearing at the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice in San Jose is scheduled for July 10. He has not yet entered a plea to the charges.

Investigators have also reported linking Garcia Torres to at least one incident in a trio of attempted assaults on women in the parking lots of both Morgan Hill Safeway stores in March 2009. 

The suspect in those incidents, who was never identified or arrested, confronted three women on separate occasions near their parked vehicles at night. The suspect entered the vehicles and locked the doors and attempted to assault the women. He was scared off by passersby or the victim’s resistance in all three incidents. 

The suspect used a stun gun on one of the victims, and punched another of the female victims in the string of assaults. Authorities did not say which of the three incidents Garcia-Torres was linked to. 

Police produced an artist’s rendering of the suspect shortly after the Safeway attacks, and even recovered his stun gun, but the crimes were not solved. 

Volunteers continue to search for Sierra or her remains, with the help of the KlaasKids Foundation. Those efforts are based out of Burnett Elementary School, 85 Tilton Ave., where searches are centered every Wednesday and Saturday. 

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