Two and a half months after Sierra LaMar, a Morgan Hill teenager, disappeared, investigators said Tuesday the 15-year-old is dead.
"We have adequate facts, we have strong facts to believe she has been murdered," Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said.
Antolin Garcia-Torres, 21, was arrested for the girl's kidnapping and murder Monday night in Morgan Hill.
"It's my belief this was purely random," Smith said. "It was an absolute stranger abduction ... We believe this is the worst kind of crime: a stranger abduction of a young girl."
Garcia-Torres was arrested Monday at the Morgan Hill Safeway, where he works. Although it was initially reported he lives in San Martin, Smith said that he is a Morgan Hill resident and has lived in the community much of his life.
He has been under surveillance for nearly two months, Smith said.
"Public safety was our primary concern," the sheriff said.
Lucero Garcia, the older sister Garica-Torres, told a Mercury-News reporter Tuesday that investigators got the wrong guy. Read her interview here.
Sierra went missing on her way to school March 16.
"Early on when our deputy first responded to a missing child report he knew this was not a runaway," said Smith, adding the deputy immediately suspected the case was a serious report.
Investigators found DNA evidence off Sierra's bag and linked it to Garcia-Torres. They linked that to Garcia-Torres on March 28—when the sheriff's surveillance began. DNA evidence was also found in his vehicle, detectives were searching for and impounded in April, according to Smith.
Garcia-Torres has a prior misdemeanor conviction for interfering with an officer and a felony assault arrest, which was not prosecuted. Garcia-Torres is not a registered sex offender, Smith noted.
However, investigators suspect Garcia-Torres attacked at least one woman in Morgan Hill in 2009.
"There were three assaults in Morgan Hill about three years ago ... We have linked one of those to our suspect through forensic evidence," Smith said.
Smith said they were physical assaults "that were not completed." One involved a Taser, another occurred at knife-point and during the third, the victim was able to get away by locking herself in her car. She did not say which one had been tied to Garcia-Torres.
Sierra's mother, Marlene LaMar, made an impassioned plea to Garcia-Torres: "Please give the information that you have to lead us to Sierra to help end this nightmare. I would like to you to come forward and say where she is."
The Sierra LaMar case has garnered national attention. Her story was earlier this months and news that an arrest was made Monday flashed on news websites around the country. Tuesday morning, at least seven broadcast trucks were stationed in front of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office in San Jose for the press conference. At one point Santa Cruz became a focus of the search as investigators combed the area looking for clues.
Sierra's family, as well as representatives from the Santa Clara County Search and Rescue Team, the state Department of Justice, the county Board of Supervisors attended the press conference Tuesday.
"As a mother, still, I'm hopeful because her body has not been found," Marlene LaMar said.
This story will be updated.
For previous coverage of the Sierra LaMar case, refer to the Sierra LaMar Disappearance: Comprehensive Updates and Information page on Gilroy Patch.