Sheriff’s deputies began conducting dozens of interviews with Morgan Hill and Fremont teens who might know anything about Sobrato High School sophomore Sierra LaMar, who was reported missing Friday.
LaMar, 15, has not been seen since she left for school the morning of March 16, according to Santa Clara County sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Cardoza.
The sheriff’s office announced Monday afternoon that the county’s Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement team began assisting with the investigation, and all registered sex offenders in the South Santa Clara County area are being interviewed.
“The purpose of contacting (the) registrants in the area is to confirm their whereabouts during the time Sierra went missing,” Cardoza said.
Deputies and Sobrato Principal Debbie Padilla held a press conference outside the school on Burnett Avenue Monday morning to report updates in the search, which is ongoing and has not turned up any major leads.
LaMar’s cell phone, a Droid smartphone, was found Saturday night in a field on the northeast side of the intersection of Scheller Avenue and Santa Teresa Boulevard, about 20 feet from the side of the road, Santa Clara County sheriff’s Lt. Troy Smith said. That spot is in the opposite direction from which LaMar usually walks to catch a Morgan Hill Unified school bus to go to Sobrato each morning.
Her bus stop is near the intersection of Palm and Dougherty avenues, just south of her home on Paquita Espana Court. Her cell phone was found northwest of her residence, about three-quarters of a mile away from the home.
Other than the discovery of the phone, police have found no evidence explaining the teen’s disappearance, Cardoza said. Police also recovered LaMar’s laptop computer from her bedroom. They continue to watch her Facebook and Twitter accounts for clues. Forensic investigators are examining both electronic devices for any information.
LaMar has not updated the social network accounts since she was reported missing, Cardoza added.
As of Monday, police had not found any “obvious signs” of foul play, or any evidence to suggest that a crime has occurred, Cardoza said.
She has not contacted any of her friends or family since she went missing, and nothing so far indicates LaMar had a troubled life that might motivate her to run away, Smith added.
“It’s frustrating from our standpoint that we haven’t found any clues,” Cardoza said at the press conference.
LaMar’s mother said the teen usually wakes up about 6 a.m., and has been missing since about 7:15 a.m. Friday. Her last “tweet” on her Twitter account was posted at 6:29 a.m. from a computer that day.
LaMar moved to Morgan Hill with her mother Marlene and mother’s boyfriend, Rick, about five months ago. On Monday afternoon, Marlene LaMar stood by with Sierra’s father, Steve, cousins Michelle Allee and Keith LaMar and Sierra’s sister Danielle.
She said the bus driver of her bus where she walks to on Dougherty and Palm avenues, did not see her on the bus Friday morning.
“It’s out of character for her to keep us out of the loop,” said Marlene.
Being so close to her sister Danielle, who is home for spring break from Sacramento State University, Marlene said she was looking forward to her sister’s homecoming.
“I want her home, we love you so much, we really miss you,” pleaded Marlene. “If there’s somebody out there that knows where she is, or is holding her against her will, please find it in their heart to let her go and let her come home to us.”
Marlene said Sierra had been a cheerleader at Washington High School in Fremont, the school from which Sierra transferred in October. She had been adjusting to Sobrato well, making new friends and being “pleasant, cheerful, social and approachable” said her mother.
Iris Wise, a neighbor of LaMar on Dougherty Avenue said she has seen Sierra walking past her house to the school bus stop before. The neighbor said she saw Sierra Thursday afternoon, but did not see her walking Friday morning. However, Wise said she does not always pay close attention, and when she sees her it is usually when she is coincidentally outside at the same time as Sierra. She added she has talked to her briefly when she has walked by, but only to say “Hi.”
“I hope she just got mad, and ran away for the weekend and she’s going to come back,” Wise said.
Neighbors on Paquita Espana Court and Dougherty Avenue described the area as quiet. Many of the residences are on large lots, and the area consists of open agricultural properties including the Grass Farm and several nurseries.
“You have the occasional drivers come by, just looking at property,” said LaMar’s next-door neighbor Sydney Flores. He said he did not know the new neighbors well, and only saw them walking by or running for exercise every once in a while.
Deputies said at the Monday morning press conference that they planned to spend the day conducting “several dozen interviews” with students at Sobrato High. By the afternoon they began interviewing teens who know her at Washington High School.
School administrators are also encouraging students to share any information they have about the teen, and have been busy posting flyers with her picture and vital information throughout Morgan Hill, Padilla said.
“It is devastating for me any time we have a student who might be in any type of dangerous situation,” Padilla said. “It makes my heart sink. And I just want her to be brought back safe.”
Padilla made an announcement to the school Monday morning before their brunch break. Freshman student Crystalina Amato, 15, said one of Sierra’s friends at Sobrato, Rochelle, broke down crying during the announcement.
“I would see her around school. She’s always smiling,” said Amato Monday afternoon.
She said one friend claims she saw Sierra in San Jose, with the same Juicy Couture brand purse and brown boots, looking paranoid. She reported it to investigators who were on campus Monday.
Junior Diamond Davis, 16, said Sierra hangs out with his group of friends.
“She’s an overall nice person, always talking,” said Davis. “All day (Monday), its been pretty bad.”
Sierra is about 5-feet, 2-inches tall with a thin build and dark hair. She was last seen with a black and pink “Juicy Couture” brand purse, authorities said. She has no prior history of running away.
Cardoza added police have exhausted all search and rescue efforts that are typical in the immediate aftermath of such disappearances, including tracking dogs and foot-based searches of the foothills and other areas surrounding LaMar’s home.
Smith said if people want to help with the search, it is better to post fliers around town rather than search themselves. The Sheriffs Office does not want others to endanger themselves by looking in the mountains, creeks or dam, he said.
Anyone with information may contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office at (408) 299-2311. During normal business hours people are asked to call sheriff’s Investigators at (408) 808-4500 or the anonymous tip line at (408) 808-4431.
Information via text messages can be sent to (408) 421-6760.