Antolin Garcia Torres, the Morgan Hill man suspected of killing missing teen Sierra LaMar, appeared in court Wednesday morning to be arraigned on three attempted kidnapping charges related to a series of incidents that happened in 2009.
The three incidents occurred at two Safeway stores in Morgan Hill. Garcia Torres is accused of sneaking up to three different women in March 2009, and forcing his way into their parked vehicles, police said.
He allegedly tried to assault the women, using a stun gun in one of the incidents, and turning another victim’s pocket knife against her when she tried to defend herself, authorities said.
All three kidnapping attempts were foiled by passersby or frightened screams from the victims, police said. None of the victims suffered serious injuries.
Garcia Torres was arraigned Wednesday for three felony counts of attempted kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking in relation to the incidents. The charges were filed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office last month.
Wednesday’s hearing at the Hall of Justice in San Jose was the first time Garcia Torres has appeared in court since he was arraigned on charges of kidnapping and murdering Sierra in May. He has waived his right to appear in court for follow-up hearings since then.
On Wednesday, his hair was longer since his last appearance, and was slicked straight back. He also appeared to have gained weight. Garcia stared straight ahead toward Superior Court Judge Jerome Nadler throughout the hearing, which lasted a few minutes.
Garcia Torres remains in custody and was handcuffed during the hearing. He wore a county jail jumpsuit and a slight smirk on his face at Wednesday’s hearing.
He did not enter a plea to the attempted kidnapping charges.
When Nadler asked Garcia Torres if he wanted to waive his right to a preliminary examination, and if he understood the charges, Garcia Torres replied both times, “Yes, I do, your Honor.”
He replied, “You’re welcome,” when Nadler thanked him, and then he returned to the back of the courtroom with bailiffs.
Garcia Torres’ next hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 6 in the same courtroom.
The new charges were added to the existing complaint against Garcia Torres, which charges him with the kidnapping and murder of Sierra, 16, who has been missing since March 16.
Garcia Torres was arrested May 22 by Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies for his alleged involvement in Sierra’s disappearance.
Sierra, who was 15 and a sophomore at Sobrato High School when she vanished, has not been found. Her family and volunteers with the nonprofit KlaasKids Foundation continue to search Morgan Hill and surrounding areas for any evidence of her whereabouts.
Authorities think she is dead based on her lack of communication with anyone since March 16.
Sierra disappeared while walking to her school bus stop near the intersection of Palm and Dougherty avenues, which is near her mother’s house in north Morgan Hill.
Garcia Torres has not entered a plea to the charge of kidnapping and murdering Sierra.
Some of the volunteers who have participated in the search for Sierra since the spring stood outside the courthouse Wednesday. They displayed a hand-made poster bidding support for the ongoing search efforts, which convene every Saturday at Burnett Elementary School, located at 85 Tilton Ave.
One of the volunteers, Jennifer Koziel, has flown to the Bay Area several times from her home in Chicago, Ill. just to assist in the search, which she heard about months ago from media reports.
“We’re the voice for her family, and for her,” Koziel said to reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday.
Anyone with information on the case can call the sheriff’s tip line at (408) 299-2311 or (408) 808-4431. Tips can also be sent by e-mail to [email protected], and via the sheriff’s office website at sccgov.org/portal/site/sheriff.