Now that John Gardner has been convicted and sentenced to three life terms in prison for Chelsea King and Amber Dubois murders, the San Diego law enforcement community held a collective press conference to answer questions from the media. While many questions were asked, reporters were left with confirmation on details dug up during the investigative phase of the double murder and rape cases.
Details that stood out included acknowledgment that Gardner was taken out of county jail on a field trip to point out where he buried Amber Dubois’ body. Authorities say the excursion lasted approximately three hours. During this time there was another search in Escondido at Kit Carson Park and the media speculated this was a ruse to keep press away from the recovery of Amber’s remains that however was dispelled by the Escondido Police Department.
Law enforcement representatives at the press conference invoked Marcy’s Law several times to prevent the media from the gory details that are protected under the California law. This law ensures victims’ families are reasonably shielded from gruesome details that could cause undo stress and privacy issues.
The only family members at the press conference were Amber’s father Moe Dubois and his girlfriend. (Amber’s mother was in New York talking to Good Morning America.)
The King family chose not to attend and submitted a statement through their attorneys Luce Forward. The statement read in part, “we continue to advocate for the preservation of Chelsea’s dignity and prevention of further trauma to her family… To preserve those rights, we have made written request to all involved agencies not to voluntarily disclosure or discuss the crime scene photographs that depict Chelsea, any sexual assault examination reports or photographs by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office regarding Chelsea.”
The King family further explains that the community has suffered enough and only seeks the opportunity to grieve and heal in the coming months. “The perpetrator has been captured, confessed to his crimes and shortly will be sent to prison for life. It is time for healing, not a time to unearth painful details made irrelevant by the defendant’s decision to admit his crimes,” the statement concluded.
It’s true the perpetrator has been caught but in order to prevent future breakdowns in law enforcement investigations they must garner all the relevant information. It is clear there were a number of breakdowns along the way and currently the bull’s-eye lands on the San Diego Police Department.
The SDPD handled jogger Candice Moncayo’s attack in the same Rancho Bernardo park just weeks earlier in late December. Little was gleaned from this police report and SDPD Capt. Jim Collins offered nothing new.
The attack was classified as a robbery, even though Moncayo was tackled, told her attacker ‘you’ll have to kill if you want to rape me.’ Gardner replied, “That can be arranged.” Before Moncayo was able to break free, she elbowed Gardner in the nose and then he apparently asked for money.
Again this took place in an isolated location and female joggers usually do not carry cash while running. Moncayo herself said she thought it was an attempted rape.
However, the jogger was able to fight off her attacker and reported that she elbowed her assailant in the face most likely breaking his nose- this self-defense gave her an opportunity to run for her life.
The San Diego Police Department was called to investigate the scene and after interviewing the victim concluded it was a failed robbery.
“A failed robbery? How many women go jogging in a county park carrying a purse, computer, camera and cash? Anyone with common sense knows something like would take place at a car or home,” says Poway resident Carry who wished to protect her last name.
The jogging victim’s mother found the outcome odd as well. She reported that her daughter was tackled like a football player and a large man fitting Gardner’s description tried to aggressively subdue her daughter.
This where the communication break downs begin. San Diego Police Department was convinced the female was a victim of a robbery attempt because at some point during the attack he asked for money. Not many women are buying that excuse.
According to Moncayo who was attacked on Dec. 27th, she wanted to sit down with a police sketch artist to create a composite drawing of her attacker; the SDPD was too busy to follow through with her request. However, the female returned home to her Colorado home and was able to get a local Police Dept. to draw a sketch. The likeness to Gardner is astonishing.
“There’s a lot of frustration and anger out there right now,” said Gary Carlson the Rancho Bernardo neighborhood watch coordinator. “The San Diego Police Department did not personally notify us after the Dec. 27th attack occurred. It was a failure in communications that the attack was classified as a simple robbery on the crime log.”
According to Carlson, recent cutbacks in community spending may have been a factor in the SDPD not reaching out to community leaders sooner. Had the Police Department notified community leader an action plan would have been implemented.
“First, we would have notified all of our district leaders who would bring neighbors up to speed. The community would have mobilized and put together fliers to post at local businesses, entrances to the park as well as post fliers door-to-door.”
Finally, the Rancho Bernardo Neighborhood Watch group would have posted information on their website and been in constant contact with law enforcement officers monitoring the case progress.
“Hind sight is 20/20, but I can say we would have been proactive,” Carlson said.
Moving forward Carlson believes the police and community can learn from this tragedy and figure out a communication system that will provide a timely alert mechanism for future incidents that may arise.
Collins went on to explain the Moncayo attack lasted no more than 30 seconds and acknowledged the DNA obtained from Moncayo’s elbow sat on the DNA labs shelf until Gardner was arrested for Chelsea’s murder.
Yet when asked about the current county backlog on DNA, Collins said there was a two to three week wait. However, the DNA labs admit the wait is many months and in some of the rape kits cases the wait is well over a year.
If the Moncayo case was handled differently, perhaps, Chelsea would be alive today, community residents speculated.
When discussion turned to the death penalty, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis repeated the office line that “the death penalty is a hollow promise in California.” However she only admitted Gardner’s public defender was the one who requested that the death penalty be taken off the table when pressed further by reporters. The end result led law enforcement officials to Ambers remains in Pala California about 30 minutes north of her home.
In the end all the explanations will not bring back Amber or Chelsea home and the community is no closer to knowing how the mind of criminal psychopath Gardner works, but Kristen Spieler, deputy district attorney who handled the legal prosecution summed it up best. “The defect was not in his mind, it was in his character.”
It’s been less than two months since Chelsea King was raped and murdered by a convicted sexual predator, with the dedication of her parents Chelsea’s Law has moved forward in the usually gridlocked Sacramento legislature.
The new law seeks to toughen existing sexual offenders laws by adding mandatory life prison sentences for forcible violent sex crimes against children, tightening sex offenders parole guidelines and adding requirements for the life-long tracking of certain repeat sexual offenders.
Chelsea’s law, Assembly Bill 1844 made it out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee this morning. The bill was penned by San Diego Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego) has been working closely with the King family since their daughter was tragically murdered in late February.
“Public safety is my number one priority, and I share Assemblyman
Fletcher’s goal of making our communities safer and protecting our kids from
sexual predators,’” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement today.
“It is our job to make sure that we have the right laws in place that
will keep our children safe, and I applaud the Assembly Public Safety Committee
for passing this important legislation today,” he said. “I look forward to
working with Assemblyman Fletcher and the rest of the legislature to make
`Chelsea’s Law’ a reality and create harsher penalties for those that prey on
John Gardner plead guilty to all charges for the murder of Amber Dubois and Chelsea King on Friday afternoon in a San Diego. In return the sexual predator will not face the death penalty.
The plea agreement states Gardner will get life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Amber Dubois, 14, went missing in February of 2009 and her body was recovered after Chelsea King’s murder took place in March of this year. Gardner was believed to be the killer of the Dubois case after DNA evidence linked the sexual predator to the King murder.
There has been speculation that Gardner was taken out of jail to show investigators the location of Dubois’ body in order to receive life in prison instead of the death penalty. Authorities also report Gardner is the potential perpetrator of other missing girls in Southern California.
Thousands turned out to celebrate the 17-year-old Chelsea King’s life, blue ribbons fluttered in the wind; thousands of sunflowers sprinkled throughout the audience and a sense of hope swirled around Poway High School’s football stadium.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but the King family did so with the help of family and thousands of community well-wishers all with a kind word about the vibrant and quirky teenager.
Chuck McCully, her uncle, was the first family member to speak about Chelsea at the memorial, “Wow, you’re a community like no other community I’ve ever known.”
When it comes to difficult times Poway tends to pull together and reach out to those in need. When the recent fires gripped San Diego and blazed through Poway, once again the community answered the call with grace and dignity.
Phrases from speakers included, “a Titian through and through,” “faith-tested,” and “with us in spirit” capture the essence that was Chelsea.
One of her High School friends, Anton Walker said, “the metamorphosis of High School is not easy, but Chelsea made it easier.” It was Walker who had lunch with Chelsea – one that would be her last meal.
Another close friend, Katie Chang, quipped that one of the things she loved most about Chelsea was her “feathers of quirkiness.”
“I want to say I’m OK, but I’m not OK, because the best thing in my life has been taken away from me, which was Chelsea,” her brother Tyler said. “Her spirit is so large it defeats death.”
According to one of Chelsea’s teachers, Curt Lewis, she was not afraid to die. A recent paper she wrote after studying Leo Tolstoy and showed she yearned for a noble life- one with real meaning. “I will not live in fear of my own mortality,” the paper read.
“Is it any wonder that the sun came out at just the right moment,” said memorial director Pastor Harry Kuehl of the Church of Rancho Bernardo. “I think Chelsea said, ‘Lord, this would be a good moment.'”
Noticeably shaken, Kelly King spoke to her daughter as though she was there. “I have to remember to breathe each morning…but I hear Chelsea telling me we have important things to do today, mom.”
Chelsea’s mother spoke about the sunrises that Chelsea knew would bring renewed hope and her love of knowledge and the written word. “Evil never conquers over good.”
Sadly, Kelly King spoke about the club they were forced to join, a club no parent wants to be a part of – parents of murdered children.
Taking this one step further was Chelsea’s father, Brent, who referred to his daughter’s killer “as evil, pure evil.”
Making sense of a senseless act is never easy, Brent King explained, but if it weren’t Chelsea that day it would have been another young girl.
Fixing sexual predators isn’t possible according to Brent King. He challenged those who disagree, “Let them live in your neighborhood next to your children. Not ours. This is about protecting our children from evil.”
The raw emotion appeared all over King’s face as he spoke about the litany of emotions and reactions to his daughter’s death he could have evoked. “Because of you,” he said, looking at the attendees, “I chose hope.”
In a final plea to protect our nation’s children, King said to the audience, “Give your time, give your voice, and give your energy to help Chelsea’s light stay bright. I love you angel.”
Then the celebration of life ended with the release of white doves.
Amber Dubois’s parents were also in attendance and shared in the King family pain. There was a moment of silence for Amber and words of condolences from the Poway community. Amber’s memorial will be held in exactly two weeks and the King family is expected to attend the service at Escondido High School.
Amber Dubois’ parents received the grim news that their daughter who has been missing for 13 months has been found. On Friday night the parents were hopeful their daughter was still alive as the Escondido Police Department searched Kit Carson Park for clues to the missing teenager.
That all ended today as Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher said, “The discovery was made in the early morning hours Saturday in a very rugged and remote area of Pala. Escondido police and Sheriff’s homicide detectives were following a lead in the case when they made the discovery.”
The remains found near the Pala reservation and Pala Casino, were positively identified using Amber’s dental records Saturday afternoon.
Maher, Sheriff Bill Gore and FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Keith Slotter, did not answer any questions at the brief press conference held at the Escondido Police Department. Maher explained the remains were part of an ongoing police investigation and there were three separate agencies working the Amber Dubois and Chelsea cases.
“The entire community, everybody who helped out with the search effort, and above all our huge volunteer corps, they are the most dedicated people and without them we couldn’t have done anything,” said the visibly upset father Moe Dubois.
When asked if the reward for information leading to Amber’s disappearance would be in play, Sheriff Gore declined to answer leading to more questions as to how the skeletal remains were located.
The local convenience store in Pala, yielded chatter that Amber was most likely found because John Gardner, who is charged with Chelsea King’s rape and murder wanted to get out of the death penalty.
However, the San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that the tip came in the form of a concerned resident. “The entire Chelsea King event emotionally pulled at somebody who had this information,” said Bill Garcia a PI hired by the Dubois family. “They’ve seen the community in a lot of pain. Someone who had been afraid to say something finally came forward.”
A half-hour drive north of Escondido would be Amber’s final resting place. Her skeletal remains were recovered off Pala-Temecula Road in the rocky hillside of a bustling highway located between two casinos.
The Sheriff’s deputies were parked along the highway in nondescript SUVs, but were easy to spot because the officers were standing outside their vehicles. Ask if the crime scene was up or down, they pointed up a mile-long road into a wooded section of the hillside. Once their cover was blown, the Sheriff’s Department called Caltrans to place crime scene tape along the roadside and clear two members of the media.
The Escondido Police Department announced more details would be forthcoming at another press conference tomorrow.