LOS ANGELES — Sierra LaMar, the 15-year-old from Santa Clara who went missing on her way to school in March, is believed to be dead by sheriffs investigating her disappearance, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Santa Clara County police arrested 21-year-old Antolin Garcia Torres on Monday on suspicion of murder and kidnapping, the sheriff's department told ABC News. He has also been linked to a March 2009 assault in Morgan Hill, where LaMar is from, according to the Times.
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"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 Sheriff Laurie Smith said at a Tuesday morning press conference, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "We developed this through our investigation based on direct and circumstantial evidence including forensic analysis conducted by the Santa Clara County DA's crime lab."
Though investigators have not yet found LaMar's body or signs of blood or struggle, Smith said there is strong evidence that the 5'2 cheerleader from Morgan Hill, California was murdered.
Investigators found Sierra's Juicy Couture handbag with clothing and a cell phone on the side of the road near her home on March 17, the day after LaMar's mother Marlene reported her daughter missing, MSNBC reported.
Marlene LaMar urged Garcia Torres, whose DNA was found on the girl's belongings, to cooperate with officials in the case.
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"I would like you to come forward and say where she is and end this nightmare for us as a family," Marlene said at a news conference Tuesday, according to MSNBC.
Sierra's mother also said that she and her family are still holding out hope that the missing teen is alive.
"Until she is found, our search is still not going to end," she said. "As a mother, still I am hopeful because her body has not been found and that gives me hope."