Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 59

Wherever I go and whatever I do things and events are in a constant state of change. Hopefully they are evolving, growing and getting better. Sometimes they are in decline or seemingly dormant, but even majestic mountains and ancient glaciers change with the season and over the ages. However, when I am at the Sierra Search Center progress seems to be stuck in time. The faces of the volunteers are the same, although they may reflect heightened levels of grim determination. The search assignments become redundant although the lush green hills that were searched in April now glimmer golden in the sun.


This case is getting inside people’s heads. As improbable as it may seem, they dream about Sierra returning home, even walking through the big double doors of the Search Center. They struggle with their own emotional well-being as a child that most of them have never met is somewhere out there. They feel guilty that her best possible scenario has her distressed, hopeless and afraid. Some volunteers have taken to dark moods; some to drink. However, there are no social services available to these good men and women, so they put their heads down and try to move inexorably forward.


The arrest of Garcia-Torres, the punk who victimized her, had a positive vibe despite the Sheriff’s contention that she was dead. It reenergized Sierra’s troops, suggested new search sites, and seemingly brought us that much closer to the truth.  However, that was 10-days ago and nothing further has happened. That’s the nature of professional criminals. They know how to work the system; when to talk and when to keep their mouths shut. In other words, if it isn’t self-serving there is no reason to talk. If Sierra is alive and under his control, then it must be assumed that she has been alone since his arrest which means that she is hungry.  we still don’t know where the vivacious 15-year-old cheerleader is.


People who are not already invested in this case are avoiding it like the plague. We got our first taste at a Giants game about a month ago. As volunteers were handing out flyers at the ticket gate, they were being blown off by fans who said, “Why bother she’s dead,” or “I’ve got no time for this.” Even now, as saturated as this case has become in this community, there are still those who profess to know nothing about it. They must live under rocks.


By 10:00 a.m., more than 80-volunteers have been dispatched to search for Sierra. Somebody dropped off breakfast burritos, and as always the kitchen ladies have laid out a spread of bagels and other pastries, loaded with carbs, to provide the energy burst that is so needed in these dog days.

I Am Losing My Best Friend

 By Brad Dennis

Jerry Dennis and granddaughter Taylor Dennis

Jerry Dennis and granddaughter Taylor Dennis

For years the relationship between my Dad and I were strained. Memories of a childhood filled with selfishness and alcoholism far exceeded memories of a Dad playing catch with me. As an adult our friendship blossomed. We reconnected in ways I had only read about and once longed for.


My Dad passed onto me his love of golf, Carolina basketball and the New York Yankees. Ours was a relationship built on sports and the way two men can get themselves lost in these conversations. As I grew older and he grew sicker I realized there were more important traits that he shared with me. You see, he has an insatiable drive…anything he ever set his mind to do, he did. His quiet strength and fortitude forged strong friendships with others. His dogged determination in his relationships with his friends had him going out of the way on numerous occasions to help them.


I have lost other friends, I have witnessed tragedies, and I have been with numerous families at the worst times of their lives and because of these instances I thought I knew grief. The grief I did not know has washed over me in waves. First as we sat and listened to my dad tell us he was ready to go, and now as I sit and watch him wither away into a shell of the man I love. I now know grief.


His breaths are more labored, the memories of him come like a flood. There are the memories of him coaching my Little League baseball team, teaching me to play golf, the arguments and the love. Memories of him answering my call for help as my High School date and I got stuck in a ditch. I remember he pulled up, got out the jack, jacked up the back wheel and then slammed the car off the jack and back onto traction. He walked over to me and winked and then said, “Son, you need to get this young lady home to her family.” Nothing else has EVER been said about that night. He was the one I ran to during a marriage crisis He is the one that gave my wife her first real “dad” relationship. For all of these memories I am thankful.


I know that most of us hope to bury our parents and not the other way around. I know that what is happening is the circle of life. I know that his decision to accept Jesus Christ into his life brings to life the scripture, “absent from body means present with the Lord.” And even though I know all of these things…right now, I know grief more.


Memories will sustain us in these times. To my friends, expect to see me on the golf course more, as I walk the fairways or line up my next putt, know that I’m playing so that I can reconnect with my caddy – my Dad.


Brad’s father Jerry Dennis passed quietly this morning. Please keep the Dennis family in your thoughts and prayers. MK


Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 52

The Smirk!

Why do psychopaths always think that they are the smartest guys in the room? They are cowardly little men who prey on vulnerable children. They derive pleasure at the expense of others, for nothing more than instant self-gratification. They leave a trail that rivals the Great Wall of China. Yet, when they take the inevitable perp walk, the arrogant smirk on their face defies explanation.


The Sierra LaMar Taskforce has spoken to Garcia-Torres about Sierra’s disappearance several times, although not in a custodial setting. He has been under 24/7 surveillance for almost two months as he knew full well. They took possession of his red Jetta on April 7, but he seemed oblivious to the fact that he has been in the task force gun sights since shortly after Sierra disappeared.


Sheriff Smith has linked his DNA to Sierra’s possessions yet he told his mother that he had never had contact with her. In fact, he told his mom that he drove near Sierra’s home, but spent the day fishing at Morgan Hill’s Uvas Reservoir. In probably the biggest tell of all Garcia-Torres’ mother said that she believes her son, but she is not his shadow. If your own mother doesn’t buy in to your b.s., how clever can you really be?


Chester the Molester lurks in bushes and waits for opportune moments to attack unsuspecting, vulnerably children. Not really the most courageous approach to life that I can think of. He isolates them, rapes them, and murders them. Then, as he tries to conceal his “perfect” crime, he looks into his rearview mirror, smiles knowingly and contemplates his rugged good looks.


I believe that most people consider the needs and feelings of others. We try to comfort our loved ones when they are sad, and we tell white lies to spare the feelings of our friends. The response to Sierra’s disappearance is a perfect example of unselfish benevolence. Thousands of people gave of their time, money, services, talents, prayers and goodwill to help the family of a young girl that most had never met. All any of them ever asked in return was for a little girl to walk through the door and say thank you.


In the mind of the psychopath, the sacrifice of a little girl’s life for one moment of instant self-indulgence is status quo. It is an act devoid of conscience and steeped in evil. These are the acts of individuals who, once they are identified, should be removed from society, because we can easily survive without them, while they will only exist in misery without us. I don’t really care if they are isolated or stacked like cordwood. My only stipulation would be that the only place that they can see their reflection and practice the smirk is among the turds floating in their murky toilets.

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 51

Antolin Garcia-Torres

The beloved fairy tale Beauty and the Beast ends happily ever after, but alas, this real life tale of Beauty and the Beast may have tragedy written all over it.

Sierra Lamar has been missing since shortly after leaving home for the school bus at about 7:15 a.m. on March 16, 2012. Sixty-six days later, at approximately 6:00 p.m. on May 21, 2012, Antolin Garcia-Torres was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murdering the vivacious 15-year-old Morgan Hill high school student. The Sierra LaMar task force has had the 21-year-old Safeway Supermarket employee under surveillance since March 28, after DNA linked him to items found in Sierra’s Juicy Couture bag. The Juicy bag was discovered by the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team two days after Sierra disappeared.

His DNA was on file in the nationwide CODIS database because California law allows for DNA collection in cases of felony arrest. Garcia-Torres has a misdemeanor conviction for interfering with a police officer as well as a past arrest for felony assault. The felony assault charge was ultimately dropped, but not before his DNA was extracted. There are many who argue that collecting DNA without a conviction is a privacy violation. Without that linkage, this creep might still be on the loose and young girls in Santa Clara County would still be endangered.

A red VW Jetta with a black hood and sunroof that is owned by Garcia-Torres has been in law enforcement custody since April 7. It was identified as a vehicle of interest through witness accounts and surveillance video. Forensic testing has been conducted on the vehicle, and although some test results remain outstanding, the authorities have evidence that places Sierra in the red Jetta. That means that Sierra and Garcia-Torres can be linked at two separate crime scenes: the location of the Juicy Couture bag and the vehicle owned by and registered to the suspect.   

This sucker has a history, has assaulted women in the past but is not a registered sex offender. Besides the misdemeanor conviction and felony arrest Garcia-Torres has also been linked to at least one of three 2009 unsolved assaults on young women in Morgan Hill. During her press conference Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith alluded to the fact that, “Since January of 2011 in Santa Clara County alone there are 43 missing females that have never returned home.” Was she suggesting that Garcia-Torres might be a serial killer?

The arrest was made for public safety concerns. Although the Sheriff had hoped that he would lead them to Sierra’s remains, he has not done so. It was quickly noted that surveillance isn’t perfect and that anybody who would kidnap and kill a young girl poses an extreme safety threat. The authorities are still seeking information from the public that will help establish the timeline that will lead them to Sierra.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Sierra had ever met or had knowledge of the suspect’s existence. It is believed that Garcia-Torres acted alone and that it was a random crime of opportunity. This makes it one of the most frightening and difficult crimes to solve for they are looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. It is a large world full of billions of people and she is a small girl.

Garcia-Torres is a small time thug who has always lived in Morgan Hill. Although the task force has spoken with him several times, he had not been questioned in a controlled environment until after his arrest last night. 


After KTVU broke the story last night I called Sierra’s mother Marlene. I asked her, based on this latest development, if she wanted us to continue looking for her daughter. Her answer was an emphatic, “Absolutely!”

Garcia-Torres has been charged with kidnapping and murder, but he does not have an extensive criminal history, has not been previously charged with murder or rape, there is no weapon, we don’t know how Sierra was killed, and her remains have not been found. Perhaps there has been a rush to judgment. Perhaps Sierra is alive after all. It is now up to us to find the truth.

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 47

I’m so God damned angry that I can barely see straight. We have been searching for Sierra LaMar for 64-days now. That’s more than two months. I’ve watched this community rise to the occasion on multiple levels. I’ve seen support come in from all over the Bay Area. I’ve thought, more than once, that today is the day that we will find Sierra. Yet here we are, still: looking; hoping; and engaged in internal dialogues, trying to negotiate with a God who forces families to reach into the depths to endure open ended misery. I understand that life isn’t fair, but this is ridiculous. Where is the mercy?


Somewhere out there a goon who does or doesn’t drive a red Jetta with a black hood has created an intolerable situation that only he can end. Was he born without conscience or is he a product of of a dysfunctional environment? Does hate and destruction come naturally or did he hone his demonic skill set over time?


He turns his back in indifference, eating pizza, drinking beer and generating a vibe so negative that it has a community up in arms and a family caught up in emotional free fall. I wonder if he thinks about Sierra on a daily basis or only when the flyers and news reports remind him that many are still looking? In the final analysis it doesn’t really matter. And all we can do in response is send out search parties, keep open minds in the face of near statistical certainty and encourage the family to stay strong for their girl. The only thing that is important is bringing Sierra home.


Listen turd. You have the power to end this right now. You don’t have to turn yourself in. Just clean up your business and cover your tracks. Let Sierra’s family have her back, whatever that means. Then you can go about your business, target your next victim and reign terror on somebody else’s community. Just understand that you can’t get away with this forever.


Ultimate Survivor Midsi Sanchez

At some point you are going to mess up. You’ll leave your DNA, or there will be a witness, or your victim will escape like Midsi Sanchez did back in 2000. Then and only then it will be your turn to pay. The wages of your sin will be steep. Hopefully yours will be a long and painful death. Then you will rot in hell forevermore.


I know something about guys like you. My family was bedeviled at one time. He haunted and tormented us as he looked away in indifference. It lasted for 65-days. Finally, he is in a place where he has no influence, no future, and most importantly no hope.


When we began looking for Sierra there was a vacant lot across the street from the search center. Now there’s a housing development. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll still be here when the children of the young families that move into these houses graduate from high school.

Perfect Endings: Rot in Hell Adam Mayes

“Fairytales can come true”…Frank Sinatra

How many lives did Adam Mayes destroy? He murdered Jo Ann Bain and her daughter Adrienne in a frenzied obsession over Jo Ann’s two younger daughters. Those girls, Alexandria 12, and Kyliyah 8, will undoubtedly require years if not decades of therapy in order to cope with two tragic weeks that they endured and survived. Their father, betrayed by his best friend, has lost his wife, daughter and some might say his dignity. Then there is Mayes’ skanky wife and mother, neither of whom will ever walk in freedom again. Like the ever expanding concentric circles created by a pebble skipped across the pond, in varying degrees numerous people will have to reexamine their lives and adjust to a new normal.

Adam Mayes was a useless human being. Had he been captured alive we would have had to endure his trial: a publicly financed opportunity for him to excuse and justify his evil actions and murderous intent. Alexandria, Kyliyah, and their father would have had to endure the lies, twisted fantasies, and obfuscations.  

There is no mistaking what he did. His wife was an eyewitness to all of it and has provided the grisly details to the authorities. Most likely, he would have ended up on death row. Then people would have prayed for him, held vigils for him, spilled tears in misplaced anguish, and protested man’s inhumanity to man as they unstrapped his worthless carcass from the death gurney.

Yes, sometimes there are perfect endings. Like Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs, or a $171,000 reward, lead the children home and the wicked witch dies in the end.

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 37

Sierra 2For the first time in 47-days the Santa Clara County Sheriff had something new to report. They were looking for, no, wait, they found the 1999 red VW Jetta with a black hood and sun roof that they believe is connected to the abduction of Northern California teenager Sierra LaMar. They haven’t disclosed how long they have had the car, who owns the car, what they found inside the car, or the results of forensic testing that has been conducted upon the car. Obviously, this is a good thing because the Jetta may finally lead us down the path that will result in Sierra’s recovery. However, if you are Sierra’s parents Steve and Marlene or her sister Danielle, things are a bit more complicated than that.

Sierra 3Human nature demands that you keep hope alive until proven otherwise. Sierra’s immediate family has been holding onto a thread of hope ever since she disappeared on March 16. They have played out various scenarios, trying to figure out what really happened on that cold, wet Friday morning. Inevitably, thos scenarios end with one resolution: that Sierra is rescued alive, is reunited with her family, and is able to put her affairs in order and lead a productive and happy life. Now, cold reality may be staring them in the face. Perhaps something entirely different went down. Perhaps the end game will not be as they imagine in the silent hours of the predawn morning.

Sierra 4This creates high anxiety. Not the kind of anxiety you feel when you might not get to the airport on time, or when you don’t get the promotion that you feel you deserve. No, this is anxiety that their beliefs, their dreams, their God and their prayers will supernova if this doesn’t play out the way that they have demanded these past months. This is anxiety that physically vibrates your body and incessantly pings your brain like a jagged pinball until some truth at long last reveals itself. It invades your fitful sleep, causes your feet to sweat and makes you want to fall down on your knees and banshee scream at the moon. But you don’t scream at the moon: at least not when others are present.

Sierra 1It has been a long, difficult slog to this place. The community has been magnificent, the media has been consistent, and the cops are working overtime. But at the end of the day we go home to our families, our homes, and our lives. We eat, sleep and awake renewed.

Sierra 5Not Marlene, Steve or Danielle. They aren’t eating right, they haven’t had a full night’s sleep in nearly two months and their consciousness’ have been dominated by one thought and one thought only: find Sierra! They need our help and support as they need each other. But what do you have left emotionally if every fiber of your being has been focused on one point? Not much. I know, because I have been there.

Sierra 6We all want to be there for those we love. We want to support and encourage them in their time of need. But what if those you care about the most share a common crisis that is so over the top that you cannot calculate the enormity of its impact? You stand there alone, emotionally naked, sweating between your sheets at night and shivering as the morning dew evaporates in the breaking dawn. You ar spent with nothing to give back. You simply em bark on another cycle of the living nightmare. You hope as you despair. You laugh so that you will not cry.

Sierra 7Will the red Jetta reveal more truths in the coming days? Let us hope so, but let also keep this family in our thoughts and prayers, because they need us now more than ever.

Maniac on the Move: The Bain Murder Mystery

Adam Mayes without his beard

He stalked the family for two days. During the day he lurked in the bushes and watched through binoculars. After dark he used night vision goggles. Theirs was the first house off of the interstate: the one people with car trouble would seek out. Strangers were always welcome, because the family was friendly and helpful. A man and a woman lived in the rural white house with three children, a teen-aged boy and two small children: a boy and a girl.

Shasta and Dylan Groene
He waited until after the BBQ, after the friends had gone home, the sun had set and peace had settled over the valley. Then he struck viciously! By the time it was over the man, woman and teen-aged boy were dead. The young boy and girl were missing. It was as if hellfire had reigned down upon their tidy little world. The authorities were baffled, because the family didn’t have any known enemies: at least none who would inflict this kind of mayhem.

It took seven weeks for the truth to be revealed. First, surveillance video captured the little girl; she was eight years old, in a convenience store with an unknown man. Then, once the community had been notified, they were seen in a neighborhood Denny’s having dinner. Employees contacted the police. He was arrested without incident. The little girl survived. Her 4 foot, 60 pound brother was not so lucky. The pervert, because that is what he was…is, tortured, raped and murdered the little boy some weeks before. Then he torched and buried his remains. That incident occurred in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 2005. The pervert, who had an extensive and sordid criminal history, now sits on death row.

I only illustrate this grisly crime to provide hope to those following the Bain case out of Tennessee. On April 27, 31-year old Jo Ann Bain and her three daughters were kidnapped by so called family friend Adam Mayes, a 35-year old handy man who still lives with his mother in Northern Mississippi. On Monday, May 7, authorities announced that the bodies of Mrs. Bain and her 14-year old daughter Adrienne had been found in shallow graves at the house Mayes’ shares with his mother.
Convenience store video of Shasta and the perv
On Tuesday, May 8, Mayes’ wife, Teresa Mayes, and mother, Mary Mayes, were arrested for “especially aggravated kidnapping” in connection with the kidnapping of Mrs. Bain and her three daughters. Many hope that Mayes will now turn himself in to the authorities in hopes of gaining leniency for his wife and mother. I don’t believe that there is a chance in Hell of that happening.

Adam Mayes lovely wife and mother

The authorities believe that Mayes is on the run with the two little girls. They believe that he has altered their appearance by cutting their hair. One of the largest manhunts in the history of the South has been launched in hopes of recovering the girls alive.

Maniac on the Move!

If that is to happen then we, the people, have to help. We need to be on the lookout for a tall (6’3”), slim (173 lbs.) man with two young girls. All three will have bad haircuts. They will be at gas stations, convenience stores, or fast food outlets, or on the road. If you see them, don’t approach. Instead call the police.

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 30

Krystine Dinh is one of the most knowledgeable volunteers at the Sierra Search Center. She is a problem solver, an organizer, and a good friend. When Krystine is present people gravitate to her to talk, walk, or simply sit in silence. Unfortunately Krystine’s knowledge and empathy were not easily achieved as they were born of personal experience.
On May 17, 2011, her devoted cousin Michelle disappeared while taking nursing classes at Kaiser Hospital in Hayward, CA. That event thrust Krystine and her family into the arena that none of us are prepared to enter, yet are expected to master. It’s never easy to stare into the abyss, particularly when the wind is forcefully pushing at your back and especially when one of the people you love the most is unexpectedly missing and thought to be deceased. So, how do you reconcile the chaos of violent crime with an orderly world and a life plan that now litters your path like shards of broken glass? One way to do that is to draw upon your experience and instinct and get busy trying to achieve that elusive reconciliation.
The first time I saw Krystine was on TV. She was facing a bank of television cameras responding to the disappearance of dear Michelle. She seemed cool, calm and collected: as if she’d been doing this all her life. Her words reassured and she spoke with confidence. “Pretty good for somebody who is totally freaking out because her best friend and confidant had disappeared” I thought.
About a week later I met Krystine, her cousin Michael Le and Michelle’s entire family. She had moved to the Bay Area to begin a new job the day before Michelle vanished. She seemed smaller in person: more fragile. The rest of the family lived in San Diego and had caravanned up to the Bay Area to find Michelle. They needed help.

Instinct is a gift. It is different than intelligence, but equally as important in achieving success. Instinct helps you to get your bearings in the storm and assists in navigating against a difficult tide. Michelle’s family remained united in the midst of a ripping tide, but it was left to the kids, the first generation Americans, to navigate. Krystine belied her years and took the helm. She never wavered in her resolve, she never lost her cool and she commanded the respect of all.

It has been less than a year since Michelle disappeared. It took four months to find her. It has been less than eight months since Michelle’s remains were discovered. Yet Krystine and her remarkable cousin Michael come to the Sierra Search Center whenever they can. They have fought through the pain and the agony of loss and have emerged stronger and more focused for the experienced. Now they share the benefit of their experience with those facing a similar situation.
Krystine Dinh is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced volunteers at the Sierra Search Center. With her help we have conducted sixteen volunteer searches. We have deployed 6,134 searchers on 556 search assignments and blanketed a 20-mile radius around Sierra’s home. In all we have expended 30,936 hours and fed and supplied the entire enterprise on primarily donated food and supplies. Wow!
Violet says that Krystine reminds her of me. In a certain sense that may be so. However, Krystine is much younger, much prettier, and probably much smarter than me. She’s also a woman and she is Asian. You know, in many ways Krystine reminds me of Violet.


Polly’s killer has been on death row since 1996. This November, California voters will be asked to overturn his sentence and the death sentences of 723 other serial killers, baby killers, cop killers and mass murderers. A proposition called the Savings, Accountability, Full Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which will appear on California’s ballot, will retroactively outlaw the death penalty in favor life without the possibility of parole. Abolitionists, led by the ACLU, claim that we should abolish the death penalty because it’s broken. They use the administrative bottlenecks that they created as justification for eliminating the death penalty. Now they believe that voters will be fooled into approving an initiative that will reward evil scum under the guise of alleged cost saving.   

If the death penalty is broken, mend it, don’t end it. Adopt a single drug for executions. Several other states, including Ohio, Washington, and Arizona use a constitutionally valid single drug for executions. Since 2009, Ohio has conducted 14 executions using a single drug method. Executions in California have been delayed because death penalty opponents endlessly file appeals, claiming the current 3-drug method is unconstitutional because it may be “cruel and unusual.” The final ten minutes of a remorseless killer’s life are not legitimate grounds to delay the death penalty.

Several legislative and constitutional efforts can be adopted to fix the appeals process. Retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron George endorsed a Constitutional Amendment to allow Appeals Courts to hear appeals thereby significantly reducing costs and delays. Modify and limit the time for filing certain types of appeals. Require defense attorneys to take appeals and thereby reduce delays. Currently, California has more than 171,000 practicing attorneys, yet only about 100 are qualified to represent automatic appeals.

Unfortunately, elected officials who advocate on behalf of death row inmates never allow those efforts to see the light of day. On April 17 I testified before the Senate Public Safety Committee on two bills that would have streamlined the process. Senate Bill 1514 would have eliminated the automatic appeal in cases, like Polly’s, where guilt was never in doubt. It was defeated by a straight party vote. Senate Constitutional Amendment 20 (SCA 20) would have amended the California Constitution so that appeals of death penalty cases would go to the California Court of Appeals instead of the California Supreme Court. The 105 Appeals Court justices would be able to rule on many more death penalty appeals than the 7 Supreme Court justices thereby greatly easing the backlog. SCA 20 was defeated because it would cost too much.

Politicians who would tax our inner organs in an effort to save a population of salamanders become fiscal conservatives when it comes to the death penalty. There is no objective data that elimination of the death penalty will save money. The studies relied on by death penalty opponents are misleading and inflated and were either written by them or rely on data collected by them. The only unbiased study to determine the true costs was done by the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan organization which operates independent of political pressures. The RAND Corporation found there was no objective data available to give a true estimate of the costs of the death penalty.

The death penalty is a law that is supported by a majority of Californians. The law of the land and the will of the people have been subverted by administrative shenanigans, frivolous appeals, endless delays and moral bankruptcy. The very individuals and organizations who have created a broken system in California now want the voters to legitimize their misanthropic actions. California’s so called SAFE Act mocks our system of crime and punishment as it attempts to give our very worst criminals the very thing that they denied their victims: to right to live their lives in safety and die in peace.