(Reuters) - A northern California man was arrested and accused of the kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old girl who disappeared more than two months ago, police said on Tuesday.
Sierra LaMar, who lived in Morgan Hill, California near the high-tech hub of San Jose, went missing on March 16. Police have said they do not believe she ran away.
“Our investigation has led to the identification of Antolin Garcia-Torres as the person responsible for the kidnap and murder of Sierra LaMar,” Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said at a news conference.
LaMar’s body has not been found. Smith said evidence including forensic analysis, the victim’s clothing and cell phone “contributed to our belief that Sierra is a victim of murder.”
Garcia-Torres, 21, was arrested and booked on Monday. Police do not believe Garcia-Torres and LaMar knew each other.
DNA found on LaMar’s belongings was traced to Garcia-Torres, whose DNA was on file because of a 2009 assault for which he had not been prosecuted, Smith said.
LaMar was known as outgoing and funny, a popular student who was also a cheerleader, said Teresa Casillas, a volunteer in a community search effort for LaMarch
Marlene LaMar, the missing teenager’s mother, told reporters on Tuesday she still had faith her daughter will be found alive.
“I‘m not giving up hope. Her body hasn’t been found...I believe there was a reason why she wasn’t found. So we’re not giving up on that.”
Police began monitoring Garcia-Torres 24 hours a day in late March, Smith said. A search on April 7 turned up physical evidence linking LaMar to Garcia-Torres’ car.
Reporting By Lily Kuo; Editing by Mary Slosson and Cynthia Osterman