Criminologist: Sierra LaMar Murder Suspect Could Walk Free

Criminologist Steve Clark speculates that Antolin Garcia-Torres could escape jail time if he's found not guilty on one count of murder because there is not a separate count for kidnapping.

Antolin Garcia-Torres' decision to at the Hall of Justice Thursday was the “right decision,” according to criminologist Steve Clark, an attorney who works as a legal analyst providing commentary on high-profile court cases.

“It would have been very risky to try and do this quickly,” Clark said. “He needs to study the DNA evidence and all the other information, and his lawyer needs to spend a lot more time with him before they decide what to do next.”

Garcia-Torres is believed to be responsible for the kidnapping and presumed murder of Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar, but is only being charged with one count of murder. Kidnapping has been added to the charge as a "special circumstance"—a decision that Clark says could backfire on the prosecution and send the suspect home free.

The reason Garcia-Torres could escape jail time is simply because the jury doesn’t have a fall-back position. If the jury doesn’t find Garcia-Torres guilty on the one count of murder, then its members don’t “get to the kidnapping” part, Clark said.

“Because there’s only one count, which is murder, they’ve alleged the kidnapping as a special circumstance, but it’s not an independent count at this point, so if they don’t believe he killed her but they believe he kidnapped her, then he would be found not guilty [of murder] and I don’t believe they can retry him again,” Clark said.

In order for Garcia Torres to remain behind bars despite the possibility of a jury reaching a non-guilty verdict, the prosecution would have to file a kidnapping charge, which is something they may not do because “they’ve gone all-in with murder in this case,” Clark said.

“Now they’ve made a strategy decision on that, and I think the reason they did that is they believe they have a strong case for murder and they don’t want the fallback of only kidnapping,” he said.

Clark also said the discovery of Sierra’s body could help the defense because it could serve as an alibi if the teen’s body is found in a location that the suspect has never been to, which authorities can verify by reviewing the GPS device that was secretly placed on Garcia-Torres’ car when authorities began 24-hour surveillance of him on March 28.

“If they believe he has gone back to the scene of the crime or he was associated with the scene of the body, then that’s going to hurt him, but if he’s never been there, then I’m sure the defense will argue that if he was guilty, he would have gone back or he would of checked on it,” Clark said. “The fact that he didn’t, that goes to his potential innocence.”

With the large amount of forensic evidence authorities have linking Garcia-Torres to Sierra’s disappearance, Clark said the case will ultimately come down to the battle of the experts: What are the defense’s forensic specialists saying about the evidence, verses what the prosecution’s forensic experts are saying.

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Dayana Bandala June 02, 2012 at 03:07 AM
First of all we don't know since when he knew he was being surveillence. If he knew like remembering a frase I read somewhere where he tells one of his sisters while commenting he was being surveillence he said " just do my normal life" in his normal life it didn't include checking on Sierra or her death body right? & in the case Sierra is alive don't you think he could have someone helping him? At first I taught his sisters where on denial but, doesn't it sound strange what they said that maybe he found the clothes touch it and left it when he went fishing doesn't she think we are going to buy that lets say it might be true but was he so lucky he found both its on opposite sides one on each corner and did the same? and what about the DNA found on his car (DNA doesn't lie) for me she knows something because they are putting up excuses they don't believe. They know what day he got home but obviously they had enough time to figure out what to say. I'm not saying that they know is just a theory since they bring up weird theories. I think the police should ask all the local stores to check there survillience videos to see if they see the suspect the day Sierra went missing maybe thats where we should start maybe he went to another far city to throw her body who knows
cmasters June 02, 2012 at 03:34 AM
They need to check all of his hiking areas around San Martin. I read somewhere thar he was an avid hiker in and around that area.
anthony smith June 02, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Hey that's a good tip. You should post it up on America'sMostWanted.com or AMW.com
Geri Diaz June 02, 2012 at 04:16 PM
The evidence speaks volumes...he obviously had Sierra in his car and that is what they have to go on... We all need to keep praying that they find Sierra so that they without a doubt can put this guy away for the rest of his life so that he cant cause anymore pain in anyones life...
Mairi Lian June 03, 2012 at 05:44 AM
Mairi LI I have been reading the case of another teen who unfortunately was kidnaped and found dead. What it caught my attention is that the article said that after six months of her dissaparence, her desperate mother arranged a search with those especial dogs that can sniff, and follow the escense of a person. The dogs were taking them to the right path but them they got lost. Few months later the investigator found the girl body in an area very close to where the dogs had lead them. My point is Why dont used these special dogs to follow any trace to find Sierra?
KKAY June 04, 2012 at 05:40 PM
My question is...if the cops had him underservaillence and put a GPS on his car why did they need the publics help to find the car in the first place?
StephG June 05, 2012 at 05:20 PM
"Clark also said the discovery of Sierra’s body could help the defense because it could serve as an alibi if the teen’s body is found in a location that the suspect has never been to, which authorities can verify by reviewing the GPS device that was secretly placed on Garcia-Torres’ car when authorities began 24-hour surveillance of him on March 28." That doesn't make any sense. The GPS was placed on his car AFTER the crime likely occurred. Also, his mother stated he knew he was being followed. So, if you murdered someone and you knew police were on your tail, would you go back to the scene of the crime? No, probably not.
StephG June 05, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I think they wanted to know if anybody saw the car. Probably to get info on where he may have been driving around and when. Perhaps to try to figure out what he was doing before they started following him.
Bob Job June 07, 2012 at 11:19 AM
@StephG... The statement makes sense. It is saying it would help the defense, not the prosecutors.
Gina June 20, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Why only one count? This is the reason why Joan D'Alessandro's killer of "Joan's Law" keeps coming up for parole. Just ask her mother.The prosecutor offered a plea which he took and there was only one count. Nowadays, the hit the suspect with as many counts as are applicable and the killer NEVER gets out. Thank God they have the death penalty in California. Just ask Mark Klaas about HIS agony.
Ann June 21, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Do you guys actually think that the police have not covered everything mentioned here?? I am certain they have used dogs specially trained for the search as well and checking with all stores in the area to see any surveillance cameras. People should not doubt the system so much. I do beleive that everyone is doing everything they can regarding the search.. The world is a large place.. Her body could be anywhere. I'd say that the suspect doesn't seem to be the type to travel too far from home.. Id say he dumped her body somewhere other then the area that they both live. Perhaps Los Banos area or farther. Every day her body may be deteriorating maybe that could make the search harder in a sense of using the dogs. I hope they keep searching and search further then the Morgan Hill area. The search teams should maybe choose areas beyond Morgan Hill each week.
Loren Mestressat June 21, 2012 at 06:35 PM
The police have used dogs but unfortunately I don't think they use Bloohounds which are the special scenting dogs. I grew up with Bloodhounds and I would accompanied my mother on several searches.
John Doe June 21, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Mairi Lian: OF COURSE they are using the "especial" dogs who can "sniff". To think they are not using blood hounds or german shepherds to search for her is just silly. And by the way, these dogs follow a person's scent, not "escence" which implies essence, I'm assuming. They are different.
Jim Morrison June 21, 2012 at 11:45 PM
I cant believe " john doe " would even go there with correcting english. sad that is your focus here. I'd stay a john doe here, i'd feel a little silly and ashamed too!
Amber June 23, 2012 at 04:22 AM
I pray they find her. And I pray they find her alive!
selina salas June 26, 2012 at 05:32 AM
he could of burned her body
SHal July 19, 2012 at 04:00 PM
how about the thought of this kid being linked to south of the border... There has been a thought lurking in my head maybe she was transported south and sold... ??? any thoughts? I dont know if he was that type of kid or not.
Jane Doe December 06, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Jane Doe December 06, 2012 at 06:17 AM


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