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Sierra LaMar's parents hold out hope even as cops arrest murder suspect

Police arrested a suspect in connection with the disappearance of California teen Sierra LaMar, who went missing two months ago. The suspect, Antolin Garcia-Torres, has been booked into the Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of murder and kidnapping. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

Updated 12:16 p.m. -- The parents of missing California teenager Sierra LaMar said they are not giving up hope of finding their daughter, even as police booked a 21-year-old man late Monday for her murder and kidnapping.

"Our search still is not going to end," Sierra's mother Marlene LaMar said at a press conference Tuesday. "As a mother, I’m hopeful because her body has not been found."

Antolin Garcia-Torres, from Morgan Hill, was booked into jail Monday evening after being taken into custody at a Safeway in Morgan Hill, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.


Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said the suspect had been under surveillance since the investigators received the lab reports of his DNA found on LaMar's discarded clothes.

"We were hoping that he would lead us to where Sierra was,” Smith said Tuesday, adding that the decision to book Garcia-Torres came out of concern for public safety.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's office holds a news conference regarding the arrest of 21-year-old Antolin Garcia-Torres in connection with the kidnapping and suspected murder of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar. The teen's parents also speak out at the press conference.

"We wanted to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” she said.

LaMar, 15, also from Morgan Hill, has been missing for more than two months.

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Garcia-Torres' arrest Monday marked the first time detectives have said what the community has feared since LaMar vanished on her way to school on March 16: That they think LaMar was murdered.

While LaMar's body has not been found, the sheriff said there is strong evidence pointing to homicide. Smith said investigators have not found any blood, and she refused to say any more on the nature of the physical evidence found on LaMar's clothes and in the suspect's vehicle.

"These are very very difficult cases, to prosecute a homicide when you haven’t found the victim,” she said.

Smith also said there is no indication LaMar had run away from home and no information indicating the victim knew Garcia-Torres.

"It’s my belief this was purely random," she added.

Search for missing teen Sierra LaMar intensifies in California

Garcia-Torres' record shows a prior conviction for interfering with an officer, which qualifies as a misdemeanor, and a felony arrest for assault for which he was not prosecuted, the sheriff said.

Interviews with the suspect haven't yet revealed anything "substantive" about LaMar's whereabouts, Smith said.

Facebook.com/help.find.sierra

Police suspect Sierra LaMar -- seen in images posted on Facebook.com/help.find.sierra -- has been murdered.

LaMar's mother pleaded with Garcia-Torres to cooperate with the investigators.

“Please, please give the information that you have to lead us to Sierra,” she said. "I would like you to come forward and say where she is and end this nightmare.”

Volunteers, officials searched
Volunteers and sheriff's officials have continuously searched the fields, open spaces and reservoirs near Morgan Hill since her disappearance, The Associated Press reported.

A Facebook page was set up to try to help find her. Both the sheriff and the LaMar family acknowledged the community's support throughout the investigation.

"We still need your support," Sierra's father Steve LaMar said Tuesday. "We need to bring Sierra home.”

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, the AP added. 

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. 

Sheriff's officials have released few details about leads in the case, including what, if any, evidence they found in the car.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com's Becky Bratu contributed to this report.

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