SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Police are intensifying their search for a Northern California teen missing for more than two months after arresting a man on suspicion of her murder and kidnapping.
Since 15-year-old Sierra LaMar disappeared on March 16, volunteers and authorities have searched fields, open spaces and reservoirs near Morgan Hill, a semi-rural community of 40,240 on the fringes of Silicon Valley. The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday that searches in reservoirs and waterways in the area will begin once again this week.
Antolin Garcia-Torres was arrested on suspicion of Sierra's kidnapping and murder Monday, after authorities said her DNA was found in his red Volkswagen Jetta and his DNA was found inside her bag.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said the victim and Garcia-Torres did not know each other, and her abduction was believed to be a random act of violence.
"We believe this is the worst type of crime, a stranger abduction of a young girl," the sheriff said at a news conference attended by Sierra's family.
Investigators found Sierra's pink, Juicy Couture-brand handbag with clothing and a cellphone along the side of the road within two miles of her home shortly after her mother reported her missing in March.
Garcia-Torres, 21, was linked to the case after his DNA — taken during a previous assault arrest — was linked to clothing found in the bag, authorities said. He was not charged in the previous case.
Garcia-Torres was arrested Monday — more than two months after Sierra's disappearance prompted hundreds of volunteers to turn out for searches and authorities to conduct more than 12,000 hours of investigation.
Sierra was last seen leaving her home in Morgan Hill to go to school, and authorities believe she was kidnapped while walking to a school bus stop.
Her mother, Marlene LaMar, said the family is holding out hope that the teen is still alive. She pleaded with Garcia-Torres to disclose her whereabouts.
"Please, please give the information that you have to lead us to Sierra to help end this nightmare," LaMar said.
Laura Torres, the mother of Garcia-Torres, said her son was not involved in the abduction. Torres told the San Jose Mercury News that she asked him before he was arrested if he had any contact with Sierra and he said no.
Torres also said her son called her after his arrest and said he needed her to be strong to help take care of his wife and child.