As families across the country enjoy family barbecues, attend baseball games or spend a day at the beach on the long holiday weekend, other families will be marking an especially somber day.
Besides being Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who died serving our nation, Monday is also National Missing Children’s Day, a day to honor the memory of missing children. The day was established in 1983 by a proclamation by then President Ronald Reagan to mark the disappearance of six-year-old Etan Patz who left for school in New York City on May 25, 1979 and was never seen again. At the time, there was no national response or database in place to try to find the boy. It’s hoped the day will encourage parents, guardians, caregivers and others to make child safety a priority.
This Memorial Day weekend is also an especially somber anniversary in the disappearance of a 15-year-old Northern California girl who left her family home in Morgan Hill to catch a school bus one morning more than three years ago and hasn’t been seen since. It was on May 24, 2012 that Santa Clara County prosecutors charged Antolin Garcia-Torres, then 21, with the kidnapping and murder of Sierra LaMar, who had disappeared a little more than two months earlier.
“She never got on her bus that morning, she never made it to school that day, and she was not home when her mother returned from work that day, which was unusual because Sierra was routinely home before her mother,” sheriff’s investigators said in a court filing.
Since that time more grim dates have passed, with the last search for Sierra being conducted on March 16 of this year.
“It will be a sad day, but we are so grateful to all the people who have shown such incredible support during these three years of searches,” her father, Steve LaMar, said in a statement at the time announcing the end of the searches
The last official search came on the anniversary of Sierra’s disappearance, her mother, Marlene LaMar noted.
“Even though the weekly searches are suspended, we will not give up our mission to find Sierra,” her mother said.
And, it was a little more than a year ago, May 19, 2014, that Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen made it official, notifying the judge in the case that he would be seeking the death penalty in the case against her accused killer.
Meanwhile, the case against Garcia-Torres has dragged on for more than three years.
Besides being accused of kidnapping and killing Sierra he is also charged with three counts of attempted kidnapping during alleged assaults against three women — in the days after Sierra went missing — in grocery store parking lots in the area. Garcia-Torres has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
He’s due to return to court on July 19.