The Santa Clara County district attorney announced Monday that he will seek the death penalty against a man accused of kidnapping and murdering 15-year-old Sierra LaMar, a Morgan Hill teenager who disappeared on her way to school more than two years ago.
Her body has not been found.
A grand jury indicted Antolin Garcia-Torres on the charges earlier this year. He was also indicted on charges of attempting to kidnap three other women during carjackings in 2009.
Sierra, a vibrant cheerleader, left for school on the morning of March 16, 2012, but never arrived. A day later, deputies found her cellphone less than a mile from her home; the following day, they located her black and pink Juicy Couture purse — with her underwear and San Jose Sharks jersey folded neatly inside.
Physical evidence linked Garcia-Torres and his vehicle to the case and he was arrested in May 2012.
In a brief statement Monday morning, Dist. Atty. Jeff Rosen said he had communicated his decision to the court, defense counsel and Sierra's family.
“Given the facts of this case and after a comprehensive review by a committee of senior prosecutors, I have concluded that this defendant should face the ultimate penalty," he said. "Now, we will go forward with the prosecution of all four crimes against the defendant. Upon a guilty verdict for kidnapping and murdering Sierra LaMar, there is an additional hearing for the jury to decide if the death penalty is the appropriate punishment.”
Rosen said he would not be commenting further in order “to ensure that the defendant receives a fair trial."
On the advice of his attorney, Garcia-Torres had declined to enter a plea to charges for more than a year. As a result, Rosen took the case to the grand jury. That indictment, handed down in February, ensured that the matter could proceed directly to trial without a preliminary hearing.
Sierra's disappearance triggered an outpouring of volunteer support during numerous search efforts. Turning out to help were members of the public, families of other kidnapped loved ones whose bodies had been located after similar searches, and a young woman who had been kidnapped as a child but escaped her captor.