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Courts & Trials

Man Found Guilty Of Murdering Missing California Cheerleader, 15, Whose Body Was Never Found

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From left: Sierra LaMar and Antolin Garcia-Torres.
Ben Margot/AP; Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office/AP

Antolin Garcia-Torres has been found guilty in the murder of missing California cheerleader Sierra LaMar and is now facing the death penalty, even as the teenager’s body has never been recovered.

The 26-year-old was convicted on Tuesday of four felony counts — including first-degree murder and kidnapping — in Santa Clara County, California, a court spokesman confirms to PEOPLE.

“We’ve been praying for the chapter to have this type of ending — justice,” LaMar’s mother, Marlene LaMar, told reporters afterward, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “We’re grateful for the jury for coming to the right decision.”

She added, “It gives us peace as a family, knowing that this won’t happen to another child and that you can’t get away with something like this.”

Garcia-Torres was arrested two months after Sierra, 15, disappeared on the way to her bus stop in March 2012.

The teen’s cell phone was discovered in a field near her home, and her purse, school books and clothing had been dumped in a shed near another field, according to the Chronicle.

DNA on the jeans lead investigators to Garcia-Torres, who — according to the Chronicle — lived just seven miles from Sierra, though he told authorities they never met.

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In addition, authorities found traces of Sierra’s DNA in Garcia-Torres’ car and a strand of her hair on a rope found in the vehicle’s trunk, reported the Mercury News.

Security video also captured Garcia-Torres leaving the trailer park where he lived on the morning of Sierra’s disappearance. He wasn’t accounted for again until six hours later, the Chronicle reported. Garcia-Torres claimed he was on a solo fishing trip during that time.

Garcia-Torres’ attorney, Alfonso Lopez, argued during the trial that DNA evidence was mishandled, and he suggested that Sierra’s still-missing body hinted that she was merely a runaway and not dead.

He declined to comment to reporters after the verdict.

In addition to Sierra’s murder, Garcia-Torres was found guilty of three separate attempted kidnappings of women in grocery store parking lots in 2009.

Sentencing in the case begins May 16.