MORGAN HILL -- The holiday season was difficult, Steve LaMar said quietly as he looked out at the assembled television cameras. And how could it not be? His 15-year-old daughter Sierra vanished March 16 on her way to catch a bus to school in Morgan Hill, and is presumed dead.
"It's been over nine-and-a-half months now, but we're still searching," Steve LaMar said.
On Thursday, missing-children advocate Marc Klaas helped refocus attention back to Sierra and the ongoing efforts to bring her home -- including the Saturday searches, which continue to draw 40 to 50 people each weekend.
When Klaas decided to hold a news conference to raise awareness of new technology and philanthropic initiatives to protect children and help families of missing kids, he knew the best place to stage it. That's why Klaas stood next to Steve LaMar at Burnett Elementary School in Morgan Hill, which now serves as the Find Sierra Search Center.
"This is always about the kids like Sierra," Klaas said. "It would be a dishonor to Sierra not to be here. We're still looking for her and we're not going to stop until she's been located."
Also attending were family members of other Bay Area abduction victims, as well as Midsi Sanchez, 20, who was kidnapped in Vallejo in 2000 at age 8. She was missing for three days before escaping her abductor.
"The more that Sierra's name and face is out there, the better," Sanchez said. "There's always a chance that somebody will see a story about her and that will trigger a light bulb that maybe they saw something that could help. Anything that shines more light on Sierra is a good thing."
Antolin Garcia Torres, who was arrested May 21 and charged with killing Sierra, is behind bars at the Santa Clara County Jail. Garcia Torres, who has not yet entered a plea, is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 6.
"Lately Sierra has been out of the news unless there's court appearances and things like that," Steve LaMar said. "But we're trying to keep this about Sierra and not about that part of it. We want to make sure that people are thinking about her."
Thursday also would have marked the 32nd birthday of Polly Klaas, who was abducted and murdered in Petaluma in 1993. That tragedy led to the creation of the KlaasKids Foundation, and Marc Klaas commemorated his daughter's birthday by announcing partnerships with several technology-based child-safety ventures.
"None of these technologies can help a child like Sierra, who is already missing," Klaas said. "But these are about prevention."
Some of the technologies include:
"The idea is to make sure that our children can safely use the Internet by blocking the child's identity, IP address and location," said Vernon Irvin, CEO and president of Virtual World Computing. "And the only sites your kids can go to are the ones that parents allow. This product basically gives control back to parents."
It's already available on the iPhone for $4.99 and an Android version should be released later this month.
"I think more than parents will want this," Klaas said. "When kids go missing, people want to help. That's demonstrated in the fact that more than 11,000 people have searched for Sierra."
"It's a game changer because it's also a programmable cellphone," Klaas said. "This provides parents 24-7 connectivity to their kids. This is Dick Tracy come to fruition."
The watch, a product of Marina del Rey-based Guardian Lion Wireless, will be available in the spring.
Klaas also announced the Klaas Family Housing Fund, which will assist families of missing children with housing costs.
"When something like this happens to your family, you don't even think about trying to pay bills," Klaas said.
Steve LaMar said he sees value in the technology tools to help find missing kids.
"Hopefully these will prevent other families from going through what we've gone through," he said.