SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KTVU) - In the third day of the Sierra LaMar murder trial, prosecutors presented key evidence to jurors including the 15-year-old's bag, clothing and cell phone, all found days after she vanished in 2012.
Antolin Garcia-Torres is charged with kidnapping and killing Sierra despite her body never being found.
The prosecution stressing how this evidence was carefully collected and preserved one day after the defense's opening statements attacked the evidence, calling them contaminated and mishandled.
Prosecutors in the Sierra LaMar murder trial showing the jury the actual black bag, San Jose Sharks sweatshirt and jeans, the 15 year old was last seen with found damp and not far from where she disappeared back in March of 2012 walking to a school bus stop. Search volunteers in the courtroom said it was difficult to see.
“I would like to think that she's still alive, but with everything we've heard and over the last five years, it’s hard,” said Search Volunteer Margaret Bianucci.
“I really feel for the family right now,” said Search Volunteer Andrew Espino. “This must be really hard. I have three daughters and I can't imagine what they are going through right now.”
They are crucial pieces of forensic evidence given authorities are still looking for a body. Deputies testified how they followed protocol when they found Sierra’s belongings. One deputy said he changed latex gloves for every piece of evidence collected.
“Part of the defense strategy will be to put the Santa Clara County crime lab on trial,” said Legal Analyst Steven Clark. “They are going to say the methodologies used were not up to date and not accurate.”
The defense is attacking the prosecution's claims Antolin Garcia-Torres’s DNA was on Sierra’s clothing. Defense Attorney Al Lopez said sloppy preservation from investigators led to cross contamination.
“The district attorney is going to be build that house,” said Clark. “The defense is trying to kick it down brick by brick in explaining away this forensic evidence.”
Sierra’s cell phone was also admitted as evidence. A sheriff search volunteer, who happens to be Gilroy’s current mayor found it. He testified no footprints or tire tracks were by the phone found in a muddy field.
As for Sierra’s accused killer, his demeanor was attentive and engaged Wednesday. At times, he talked with his lawyers and took notes, once looking back at the audience now a quarter full.
While Sierra’s father has been in court all three days, Sierra’s mother was not present the past two days. She may be called to the witness stand to testify her daughter was not a runaway.
By KTVU reporter Azenith Smith