Sierra LaMar case: Antolin Garcia-Torres found guilty of first-degree murder

- The man charged with kidnapping and killing Morgan Hill teenager, Sierra LaMar, was found guilty Tuesday morning, of  all charges, including first-degree murder.

Antolin Garcia-Torres had no reaction, when the guilty verdicts were read.

Court observers described him as "stone faced."

Because the proceedings were heavily attended, there was a second room for the overflow crowd.

There was a loud cheer, followed by people tearing up, when the verdict was announced.

Sierra LaMar's father spoke after the verdict was read saying, "Justice was served here today, justice for Sierra so that gives us some relief, but it will never take away that grief. That will be with us forever." He added, "There will never be closure... but it helps."

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Jurors in Santa Clara County had reached the verdict Monday.

But to give time for the families of the victim and defendant to go to court, the reading of the verdict was held off until Tuesday morning.

Antolin Garcia-Torres, 26, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of 15-year-old Sierra, who has not been seen or heard from since March 16, 2012, and to the attempted kidnappings of three women in Safeway parking lots in 2009.

“When you look at the number of charges against Garcia-Torres and the mountain of information the jury had to go through I am a little surprised they got a verdict in all of these counts so quickly,” said Legal Analyst Steven Clark who has been closely following the case. 

Prosecutors have had to prove Garcia-Torres killed Sierra without a body, a murder weapon or an autopsy. Prosecutors said Sierra’s DNA including a strand of her hair on a rope was in Garcia-Torres’s car and his DNA was on her clothing found abandoned in a field.

Garcia-Torres was arrested on May 21, 2012, two months after Sierra went missing and after investigators found his DNA on her jeans, which were recovered near where she went missing outside Morgan Hill.

Sierra's DNA was also found on an interior backseat door handle and on the outside of a pair of work gloves in Garcia-Torres' 1998 red Volkswagen Jetta.

Defense attorneys for Garcia-Torres have alleged cross-contamination during the evidence collection process, pointing to sloppy techniques by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Crime Laboratory.

Garcia-Torres' thumbprint was found on a 9-volt Duracell battery found in a stun gun that police found in the back of the car of one of the women who were nearly kidnapped and carjacked in 2009.

The defense has claimed that in Garcia-Torres' job as a courtesy clerk at Safeway, he had legitimate reason to have handled a battery if the pack had been opened before the store resold it.

Security footage shows Garcia-Torres' Jetta leaving his home at the Maple Leaf RV Park at 7 a.m., about 15 minutes before Sierra would have left her house to catch the bus to school.

Garcia-Torres has said that he might have turned onto Palm Avenue, where Sierra would have been walking to the bus stop 7 miles from his RV park, on his way to go fishing that morning.

But in his closing argument, defense attorney Al Lopez played an animation that he said proved that, based on the evidence, Garcia-Torres would have passed through the Palm Avenue area three minutes before Sierra
would have left her house.

Now the jurors will weigh the aggravating and mitigating factors and select between death and life without the possibility of parole.

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