DNA found on personal belongings of missing teen Sierra LaMar was the key to an arrest in their two-and-a-half-month investigation, authorities said in a news conference today.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office charged Antolin Garcia-Torres, 21, with the kidnapping and murder of the 15-year-old teen from Morgan Hill, Calif.
Garcia-Torres' DNA was found on clothing in LaMar's bag, which was recovered shortly after her disappearance, Sheriff Laurie Smith said in the press conference. The forensic evidence helped identify Garcia-Torres as a suspect on March 28. The Sheriff's Office then placed him under 24-hour surveillance.
"We had hoped he would lead us to where Sierra was," said Smith. She said that based on the direct and circumstantial evidence, including forensic analysis, they believe LaMar has been a victim of murder.
LaMar was last seen on March 16 at her home in Morgan Hill getting ready for school, but she never made it there.
The Sheriff's Office does not have a weapon or know how LaMar was killed, but Smith says Garcia-Torres is the only suspect now. Her office believes that LaMar and Garcia-Torres did not know each other, and called the incident "purely random."
"This is the worst kind of crime, a stranger abducting a young girl," she said.
Garcia-Torres has not admitted to any crime or given any information as to where LaMar's body is. He has also been linked to a physical assault in the Morgan Hill area in 2009, and has a prior conviction for interfering with an officer. He is the owner of the red Volkswagen Jetta that authorities seized in connection with the case on May 8.
Sierra LaMar's mother, Marlene, was also at the press conference and said the searches will continue. "As a mother I've felt hopeful because her body has not been found," she said. "And what I've heard, that certain things were not found in the vehicle, that gives me hope."
Smith did not comment on what type of DNA was found in the investigation.
Garcia-Torres was taken into custody at a Safeway grocery store in Morgan Hill where he worked Monday evening, according to KTVU-TV.
In-depth details of the LaMar case were broadcast on the series "America's Most Wanted" on May 11.
The KlaasKids Foundation has also organized weekly searches for LaMar over the past two months. The foundation assists families of missing children and was created by Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klaas, who was abducted from her Petaluma, Calif., home and murdered in 1993.
Here is a timeline of the LaMar case:
March 16—LaMar last seen in the morning by her mother.
March 17—LaMar's cellphone and laptop found near the school bus stop about a mile from her home.
March 23—LaMar's pink Juicy brand bag found with her clothes folded neatly inside.
March 26—The KlaasKids Foundation organizes large, weekly volunteer searches for LaMar near Morgan Hill.
March 27—Authorities issue a statement saying LaMar was likely abducted.
May 7—A red Volkswagen Jetta with a black hood is identified; it had been seen in three different locations near the LaMar home.
May 21—Authorities arrest and charge Antolin Garcia-Torres in connection with LaMar's disappearance.
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