With a $10,000 reward on the line and Bay Area sports stars stepping in to help, the Morgan Hill community continues to hope for a safe return of Sierra LaMar, 15, who has been missing since March 16.
Members of Sierra’s family, including her mother Marlene, father Steve and sister Danielle announced their offering of the reward Saturday, at the KlaasKids Foundation’s volunteer search headquarters at Burnett Elementary School.
“The Sierra LaMar Fund is offering this reward to the first person who offers information leading to Sierra LaMar being returned alive and safe to her family,” read a statement from Sierra’s family.
Sierra, a north Morgan Hill resident and sophomore at Sobrato High School, was likely abducted while walking to her regular school bus stop at Palm and Dougherty avenues, investigators have said.
The missing teen lives with her mother Marlene LaMar and mother’s boyfriend Rick Gardiner near the bus stop. Sierra’s father, Steve LaMar, lives in Fremont, where Sierra moved to Morgan Hill from in October 2011.
On Saturday, more than 600 volunteers – including four members of the San Francisco 49ers – showed up to help with another search effort to find Sierra or any trace of her.
Marc Klaas, founder of the organization that sponsored the search efforts, said rewards have been effective in locating missing children in the past.
When Brianna Denison of Santa Barbara went missing from a friend’s home in Reno, Nev. in 2008, the case was solved when someone came forth with information in response to a $2,000 reward that was offered, Klaas said. Investigators found the body of the murdered 19-year-old due to the information prompted by the reward.
The KlaasKids Foundation is a nonprofit devoted to conducting volunteer search efforts and other services to find missing children nationwide. Saturday was the latest of several days the foundation has been in Morgan Hill soliciting volunteers to help with the search, which entails combing mostly public open areas looking for any evidence of what happened to Sierra.
Thousands of people have participated in the search efforts so far. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement investigators have also dedicated about 7,500 personnel hours to the search, and investigated more than 1,200 tips since March 16, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Cardoza.
Still, investigators have found little physical evidence. Sierra’s cell phone was found in a field about three-quarters of a mile from her home March 17. Her purse containing folded clothing that belonged to her were found March 18, about another mile north, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.
Those items, as well as a box labeled “stainless steel handcuffs” and two used condoms found at the west end of Palm Avenue, are still being analyzed by the county crime lab.
Police have also noted that nothing in the investigation, including interviews with Sierra’s family and friends from Morgan Hill and Fremont, indicates she planned to run away on her own.
Sheriff Laurie Smith said she hasn’t been involved in a missing-person case that’s proven as difficult to solve as Sierra’s, but the sheriff’s office will continue to search and follow up on leads – which often “generate more leads” that require further investigation.
“We believe this is an abduction of a child, and there’s nothing more serious than that,” Smith said.
Among the 602 volunteers who helped look for Sierra Saturday were San Francisco 49ers Alex Smith, Delanie Walker, Joe Staley and Scott Tolzien, Klaas said.
Volunteer Dori Prado, who has helped scan photo IDs and register volunteers since the first day the foundation set up shop at Burnett, said she hopes the celebrity participation urged more attendance by regular residents.
The thousands of volunteers who have helped in the search in recent weeks have come from all over the South Bay and South Santa Clara Valley areas.
The next volunteer search effort is scheduled for Wednesday. Those interested can show up at Burnett Elementary School, 85 Tilton Ave., from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and bring photo identification. Searchers are advised to wear clothing appropriate for walking or hiking through hilly, grassy or muddy terrain.
Sierra LaMar is about 5-feet, 2-inches tall with a thin build and dark hair.
For more information on the Sierra LaMar Search Center, call 201-6364.
Anyone with information on the case can contact Santa Clara County Communications at 299-2311, or e-mail [email protected] Callers can call Sheriff’s Investigators at 808-4500 or the anonymous tip line at 808-4431. Information or tips can also be sent via sccgov.org/portal/site/sheriff or by text at 421-6760.