SAN JOSE -- Missing Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar's hair was on a rope found in Antolin Garcia-Torres' car trunk, his DNA was on her pants and his own words unknowingly implicated him to authorities, according to grand jury testimony that resulted in his indictment for the girl's presumed slaying.
The new details about the evidence against Garcia-Torres are contained in 1,900 pages of secret grand jury testimony released late Friday. While authorities had previously said that DNA evidence tied Garcia-Torres to Sierra's March 16, 2012, disappearance and presumed death -- her body has never been found -- they had not detailed their case against him.
This newspaper bore the cost and successfully fought to make the transcript public as Garcia-Torres' attorneys sought to keep it under wraps.
"It's vital for the public to understand what occurred during the secret grand jury proceeding, particularly since the prosecution is seeking the death penalty in this case," said David J. Butler, editor and senior vice president for news at the Bay Area News Group.
Among new revelations in the transcript was that Garcia-Torres -- who has pleaded not guilty to all charges -- appeared in police interviews to assume it was his semen that had led investigators to him, when in fact the DNA found on her clothes was of unspecified origin.
Garcia-Torres offered that he had ejaculated into a tissue and thrown it from his car, as a possible explanation for how the material somehow might have become associated with Sierra's clothes.
"Now, he doesn't confess," Santa Clara County deputy district attorney David Boyd said in closing remarks to the jurors, who heard from 50 witnesses over two months. "But he tells you what he did with Sierra right there. And that's why he says it. Because he doesn't know what they know."
Sierra disappeared while walking to a school bus near her home in an unincorporated area near Morgan Hill. While Sierra's body has not been found despite exhaustive searches by officials, family and volunteers, prosecutors believe they have a strong enough case to seek the death penalty -- the first such case in the county since District Attorney Jeff Rosen was elected in 2011.
Friday's documents provide a peek into that evidence.
That includes that the clothes found in her bag were, indeed, what Sierra had been wearing when she headed to the bus stop on the morning she disappeared.
"That sweatshirt and the underwear and the shoes and the socks and the bra and the pants and all the other things she would bring to school, even the Polident to clean her retainers, what's left?" Boyd said. "A naked body. She certainly didn't do that on her own."
Her sweater had dirt inside it, and more on the back of her jeans.
"Now how does that happen? And I want you to envision this in your mind. Sierra's rear-end and back are on the ground and someone's got her feet by their hands and they are dragging her."
Black polyester fibers from the floor of Garcia-Torres' Jetta were similar to those found on Sierra's clothing, and a match for her DNA was found on one of the car's armrests. Investigators also found that Garcia-Torres had bought possible clean-up tools three days before her disappearance: Bleach and a turkey baster.
"He purchased two items," Boyd said. "One of which can destroy DNA, and the other can be used as an applicator."
He also said that video evidence indicates Garcia-Torres had about six hours to commit the crime.
"That's a lot of time to hide a body in whatever way needs to be hidden."
Before his arrest, detectives tracked Garcia-Torres' moves with a GPS device placed on his Jetta and scoured the Morgan Hill trailer he shared with his mother, pregnant wife and toddler daughter. He was questioned several times and watched around the clock for nearly two months by detectives who had pegged him as a suspect since shortly after Sierra's disappearance.
They made the arrest on May 21, 2012, when they no longer believed there was a possibility that Garcia-Torres would lead them to Sierra.
The Feb. 11 indictment meant that Garcia-Torres is going directly to trial, instead of a preliminary hearing. In numerous court dates, his attorneys put off entering a plea. No trial date has been set.
All told, Garcia-Torres has been charged with kidnapping and murder in Sierra's case, and attempted kidnapping and carjacking related to three 2009 incidents. In one of those cases, the attacker attempted to use a stun gun that was dropped in the victim's car. Garcia-Torres' fingerprint was on a 9-volt battery in the weapon.
Garcia-Torres' attorney, Brian Matthews, did not want the grand jury transcript released because he believed it would hamper his client's chances of getting a fair trial because of media attention. He was not immediately available for comment after the transcripts were made public late Friday. Sierra's family members also were unavailable Friday night.
Steven Clark, a criminal-defense attorney and former Santa Clara County prosecutor, said the defense "has its work cut out for it."
"The defense now will have to do two things: create doubt based on other possible scenarios of DNA transfer and also fix that big lie which is, 'I never met Sierra LaMar.'
March 16, 2012 -- 15-year-old Sierra LaMar disappears. She was supposed to walk to a Morgan Hill bus stop and catch a bus to Sobrato High School at 7:20 a.m.
March 17 -- Sierra's black Samsung Galaxy cell phone is found a few blocks from the bus stop.
March 18 -- Sierra's pink Juicy-brand bag, with a neatly folded T-shirt and pants inside, is found down the road from where the cell phone was discovered.
March 28 -- Investigators begin 24-hour surveillance of Antolin Garcia-Torres after evidence from the bag is linked to him.
April 7 -- Investigators seize Garcia-Torres' red Volkswagen Jetta, which has a black hood.
May 7 -- The sheriff's office asks the public if they have seen the Jetta, saying it is linked to Sierra's disappearance.
May 21 -- Sheriff's deputies arrest Garcia-Torres in front of a Morgan Hill Safeway store.
May 22 -- Sheriff Laurie Smith says Garcia-Torres kidnapped and killed Sierra, citing DNA evidence that connected him to her clothing, and Sierra to his car.
June 7 -- Garcia-Torres' attorney bows out of the case, citing a conflict of interest.
Nov. 13 -- Garcia-Torres is charged with attempted kidnappings during three carjackings dating back to 2009.
March 16, 2013 -- A year after Sierra's disappearance, family and volunteers vow to continue regular weekend searches.
Feb. 11, 2014 -- After numerous court appearances but never entering a plea, Garcia-Torres is indicted by Santa Clara County Superior Court grand jury on kidnap and murder charges, as well as the 2009 assaults.
Feb. 13 -- Garcia-Torres enters not guilty pleas, waives right to speedy trial.
May 19 -- Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen announces his office will pursue the death penalty against Garcia-Torres, the first such case since Rosen took office in 2011.
June 27 -- Judge orders grand jury transcript to be unsealed on July 11 unless appellate court reviews ruling.
July 11 -- Grand jury transcript released.