MORGAN HILL -- After deliberating for two days, a jury on Wednesday convicted the father of teenager Sierra LaMar's suspected killer for sexually molesting a female relative when she was a child, including repeatedly raping her starting when she was just 7.

The case against Genaro Garcia Fernandez, 51, offered a glimpse into the dysfunctional childhood of his son, Antolin Garcia-Torres, who is charged with kidnapping and killing LaMar, 15.

Fernandez's victim testified he first fondled her when she was 4 years old -- in the same small San Martin home where his son, Garcia-Torres, grew up. Fernandez confessed in a phone call recorded by police and wrote a letter of apology to the young woman.

He was charged with 18 felony counts involving two victims. The jury found him guilty of 17 counts against the primary victim. But it acquitted him of one count of molesting another child, meaning the multiple victim allegation also doesn't stand.

He faces a life sentence after the jury of 10 women and two men found him guilty.

His son would also face a life sentence if he is convicted. LaMar disappeared from Morgan Hill on March 16. Her body has never been found. But her DNA was in Garcia-Torres' car.

Criminal history

The jury in Fernandez's trial was not told of his connection to the accused killer. Garcia-Torres' father's history also will not figure in the son's trial, though it may come up during sentencing if he is convicted of killing Sierra.


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Garcia-Torres' family background may ultimately be seen as grounds for sympathy or merely as the pathological root of his suspected criminality. But his father's case helps illuminate what life was like in the family home where Garcia-Torres was raised.

According to court documents, Fernandez was convicted during the 1980s of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol. It was unclear Tuesday how much time he served in prison away from his family.

The female relative who claims Fernandez molested her for years came forward last summer, about 11 months before Garcia-Torres was arrested on suspicion of killing the Morgan Hill teen. The molestation charges against Fernandez were also filed well before his son was arrested.

The young woman reported the abuse to protect her own children after living for years with an unbearable secret that poisoned her childhood.

Prosecutor Murat Ozgur said Fernandez eventually apologized to the young woman, but essentially claimed it was her fault.

"He explained, she wanted it, she liked it, " Ozgur told an attentive jury of 10 women and two men. "He claimed he didn't take her virginity."

According to the prosecutor's translation of the letter Fernandez wrote in Spanish, Garcia-Torres' father also said, "You know we did have sex, but it was for the pleasure of the two."

Grave words

The case was so strong against Fernandez that his defense attorney, Thompson Sharkey, did not put any witnesses on the stand or make an opening statement.

During the trial, witnesses testified that the 5-feet-4-inch Fernandez ruled his house with an iron hand.

"He hit me, " his wife Laura Torres tearfully testified, "a lot."

Speaking in a monotone that belied the gravity of her words, the second accuser said she once saw Fernandez whip the other victim with a "cord." She also said the primary victim would basically barricade her bedroom by pulling out the drawers of a bureau to block the entryway.

When she was 5 years old, the primary victim first reported that Fernandez had been touching her inappropriately.

"When I confronted her father, he said she had been swinging outside on the swing and maybe just had a rash, "on her bottom," Torres testified.

But she remained mistrustful, recalling one incident when she came home to a terrified little girl. Fernandez's wife said she was so suspicious, she finally took out a figurine of Christ and asked her husband to speak the truth.

"He swore to me by Christ and his mother he had never touched her," Torres said.

But her worries didn't disappear entirely, especially after her husband became inexplicably enraged when the accuser -- by then a teenager -- went out on a date.

When Torres tried to reassure him teen dating was normal, "He would tell me what I wanted was for her to be a whore like I was."

Follow Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.