POSTED: 04:44 a.m. HST, May 22, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 05:56 a.m. HST, May 22, 2012
MORGAN HILL, Calif. >> A 21-year-old man in custody was linked to the kidnapping and murder of a missing teenager by DNA evidence found her bag, authorities said Tuesday.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said Antolin Garcia-Torres's DNA was found inside a bag belonging to Sierra LaMar. Smith said it appeared to be a random act of violence.
Garcia-Torres was arrested Monday on suspicion of murder and kidnapping of Sierra, whose disappearance more than two months ago prompted hundreds of volunteers to turn out for organized searches.
Sierra hasn't been seen or heard from since she left her home in Morgan Hill to go to school on March 16. Authorities believe she was kidnapped while walking to a bus stop.
Smith said Garcia-Torres had been under 24-hour surveillance since March 28 and that evidence also linked him to at least one assault in March 2009.
"We believe this is the worst kind of crime, a stranger abducting a young girl," she said.
Volunteers and sheriff's officials have searched the fields, open spaces and reservoirs near Morgan Hill since Sierra's disappearance. The KlaasKids Foundation, founded by Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter Polly was kidnapped from her Petaluma home and murdered in 1993, has been organizing volunteer searches on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Investigators found Sierra's handbag with clothing and a cellphone along the side of the road near her home on March 17, the day after Sierra's mother reported her missing.
Earlier this month, investigators located a red Volkswagen Jetta they said may have been connected to Sierra's abduction given that surveillance cameras and witnesses put the car near the area where authorities believe she disappeared. Smith said late Monday that Garcia-Torres owns the Volkswagen.