Four months: Still no Sierra

Emma Spencer, from San Jose, decorates ribbons with Sierra LaMar's name Wednesday at the Sierra LaMar search headquarters at Burnett Elementary. Spencer has been volunteering since day one. "We get our comfort from her face smiling at us," says Spencer in

Four months after Sierra LaMar disappeared outside her north Morgan Hill home, authorities and searchers remain hopeful they will find the missing teen.

Although the number of searchers who volunteer for the effort every Wednesday and Saturday has dropped significantly since the early weeks of the case, Marc Klaas of the KlaasKids Foundation said at least 70 people continue to show up for each scheduled search session. The search center at Burnett Elementary School continues to be well stocked with donated food, water and resources from the community, he added.

Klaas noted that the body of Michelle Le, 26, a Hayward nursing student who went missing in May 2011, was almost exactly four months after her disappearance.

“And there are missing children that have never been found, but we are not discouraged,” Klaas said. “We still have hope we’ll locate her, and possibly even alive.”

The KlaasKids Foundation has provided search-and-rescue services to Sierra’s family since a couple weeks after her disappearance March 16.

Authorities think Sierra, a 15-year-old Sobrato High School sophomore, is dead. In May authorities charged Antolin Garcia Torres, 21 of Morgan Hill, with the crime of murdering her, with a special circumstance of kidnapping.

Sierra was kidnapped March 16 while walking to her school bus stop near the intersection of Palm and Dougherty avenues, authorities have said.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which has led the investigation, does not have any planned search efforts coming up, according to Sgt. Cardoza. While in the first two months of Sierra’s disappearance sheriff’s investigators scoured earth and water for any sign of the teen’s whereabouts, in early June they scaled the efforts back to respond only to new tips and leads.

Cardoza added the sheriff’s dive team, which has searched numerous South County waterways – some multiple times – remains “on standby” to respond to such information as it is available.

During about the first month of the investigation, from March 16 to April 15, the sheriff’s office spent about $346,236 on about 4,500 overtime hours for personnel within the agency, Cardoza said.

Costs for personnel and overtime for the remainder of the investigation to date are not yet available, he said.

He added that sheriff’s search-and-rescue volunteers, who are sworn but not paid, have spent a total of 3,776 hours on the search effort. That number includes hours from outside agencies, and includes the entire investigation period up until last week.

Also, 21 outside agencies, including local and federal jurisdictions, have worked 1,205 hours on the investigation, and that number is also current to last week, Cardoza said.

Volunteers who want to help search for Sierra Wednesday or Saturday can do so by showing up to Burnett Elementary School, 85 Tilton Ave., from 8 to 10 a.m. each day.

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 Information can also be submitted by text at 421-6760.

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