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Girls’ Deaths Reignite Calls For More Predator Laws

— It's been a horrifying couple of weeks for parents of teenagers in San Diego. First, 17-year-old Chelsea King goes missing, and turns up raped and murdered. A few days later, another teenage girl who'd been missing for over a year turns up dead.

Amber Dubois (L) and Chelsea King

Above: Amber Dubois (L) and Chelsea King

John Albert Gardner III pleads not guilty to murder and other charges in the ...
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Above: John Albert Gardner III pleads not guilty to murder and other charges in the case involving 17-year-old Chelsea King in San Diego Superior Court on Wednesday March 3, 2010.

Convicted sex offender John Gardner has been charged in the first murder, and is under investigation into the death of the second girl, 14-year-old Amber Dubois. Both cases have spurred calls by politicians and parents for tougher laws to deal with sex offenders.

A String Of Recent Tragedies

Chelsea King was a high school senior in the San Diego suburb of Poway. She played the French horn and was also on the cross country team. It was not unusual for her to go running after school, to clear her head.

But alarm bells went off for King's parents when she didn't return from a run on the evening of Feb. 25. Five days after she went missing, King's body was found in a shallow grave in the same park where she had gone running.

"One of the nicknames that I always called my daughter is 'my angel.' She's my angel forever," said her father Brent King at a vigil that evening.

Four days after that vigil, police found the skeletal remains of 14-year-old Amber Dubois. The freshman disappeared on her way to school early last year. At a vigil for her, Dubois' father Maurice urged mourners to channel their grief.

"Please take a minute for every tear you have ever shed for Amber, for Chelsea and for any other child who has suffered at the hands of these predators and come back tomorrow and take just as many minutes of action in our fight to protect our children," he said.

What's On The Books

California already has a slew of sex offender laws. Among them is Jessica's Law, barring sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet from schools or parks.

And there's Megan's law, which created a public registry of sex offenders. But legal experts say the case of Gardner — charged in King's murder and a target in the Dubois investigation — is exhibit A in the limitations of Megan's law.

The Megan's Law Web site lists Gardner's address in Riverside County, north of San Diego. But he also visited his mother's home in San Diego near the area where King was found dead. And Gardner registered as a sex offender late last year in the town of Escondido where Dubois disappeared.

"The registered sex offenders — even though they have an address in one city, they're free to move from city to city as anybody else is," said Boyd Long, the assistant police chief in San Diego.

He added, "So the sex offender who may be in your neighborhood may not be in your neighborhood, they may be in somebody else's neighborhood. And those people just don't know that."

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: San Diego remains shaken by the rape and murder of Poway teenager Chelsea King. We discuss the details of the case, and how it could impact California's sex offender laws in the future.

A Cry For Stronger Laws

But even if you do know, what can you do?

"Whatever precautions are taken to protect a community from sexual predators, they can never be foolproof, unless we do not have a free society," said former San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst.

Some local parents, like Karen Doll-Murphy, want laws that would lock up sexual predators for life, after one conviction.

"It has been proven time and time again that they get out and they re-offend and they re-offend," she said.

Not Enforced

But San Diego criminal defense attorney Gerald Blank says one-strike laws for sex offenders already exist. The courts just aren't enforcing them. And Blank says John Gardner is a prime example.

"He would have come under the one-strike law," Blank said. "He could have been put away for life in 2000 by the prosecution."

Gardner pleaded guilty 10 years ago to committing a lewd act on a child and false imprisonment. The violent nature of his crime, Blank says, qualified him for the one-strike rule. But prosecutors cut a plea deal with Gardner and asked for six years. Defense lawyer Blank says that was a big mistake.

"The criminal justice system, in my opinion, failed miserably here," Blank said. "The prosecution could have been put John Gardner away and he would not have been on our streets at the time Chelsea King was killed."

Criminal lawyers say there's not so much a need for new laws as there is for proper enforcement of the ones we have.


Disappearances of Chelsea King and Amber Dubois

John Albert Gardner III, 30, is charged with rape and murder in connection with the disappearance and death of 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway. Chelsea's body was found in Lake Hodges on March 2, 2010. Law enforcement officials are also investigating whether Garnder is connected to the disappearance of Amber Dubois. Police announced on March 7, 2010 that skeletal remains found in Pala were those of the missing teen. Amber was 14 when she went missing more than a year ago while walking to Escondido High School.

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Avatar for user 'jb1111'

jb1111 | March 11, 2010 at 4:34 p.m. ― 7 years ago

I totally agree with Mr. Gerald Blank....... the justice system failed miserably. Mr. Pfingst is to blame for John Gardner being in the community. What a lame excuse "Whatever precautions are taken to protect a community.......they can never be foolproof....." The justice system and law enforcement have immunity from being sued. Therefore, we have irresponsible, lazy, sloppy work from these people.

The Public does not want "foolproof". The Public wants the very best, most responsible enforcement of precautions possible.

I really wish you would stop quoting Mr. Pfingst. I have no respect for this person and his work. And the more you use him as a commentator, the less respect I have for you at KPBS.

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Avatar for user 'TroyDante'

TroyDante | March 11, 2010 at 7:41 p.m. ― 7 years ago

"Whatever precautions are taken to protect a community from sexual predators, they can never be foolproof, unless we do not have a free society," said former San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst.

Yes, they can, Paul. But only if blithering idiots like you would get a backbone and enforce existing laws and legislate stronger laws to negate, castrate, and eliminate these hideous monsters!

Oh, but wait. That would mean you wouldn't get a fat paycheck defending these psychopaths.

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Avatar for user 'MSLGWCEO'

MSLGWCEO | March 12, 2010 at 4:22 a.m. ― 7 years ago

Write all the "Tough On Crime" laws you want. They will not prevent anyone from committing a crime, if they are determined to do so. In fact, the harsh laws encourage the killing of a victim, because dead people cannot testify. Unless there is some kind of evidence to direct investigators to the Perp. So, how do you tell who might be dangerous? While nothing is 100 percent in this world, we must concentrate on the most dangerous.

1. The VIOLENT offender.

2. The REPEAT offender.

3. The offender who DID NOT KNOW their victim.

If you notice. The vast majority of these most heinous sexual assaults, fall into 1 or all three categories. We are wasting all the resources on the low to no risk while the predators are hiding in the registry.

This is so simple and so to the point! When people say, "Well, we can't get rid of the register, what do you think we should do?" Answer, if we need a public register at all, and I truly don't think the public has proven that they can handle it, then the only ones on it should be those that fell into the categories above!

The REAL danger to our society are the POLITICIANS who write all these laws while ignoring the Evidence Based Research" for VOTES! Oh yes, the entertainment news media who "EXPLOIT" and by doing so, also endanger our society for RATINGS. Nancy Grace, Bill O'Reilly and those of his kind.

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Avatar for user 'MSLGWCEO'

MSLGWCEO | March 12, 2010 at 4:24 a.m. ― 7 years ago

Speaking of the Sex Offender Registry. Yesterday, 3/10/2010, I checked the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry. There are 6,441 registered sex offenders in the state. There are 180 registered as "HABITUAL" or REPEAT offenders.

Divide 6,441 into 180 and we get. .0279% or slightly over 1/4 of 1%. Now I ask you, With Oklahoma having a registry since November 1, 1989, 21 YEARS, 1/4 of 1% repeat offenders, wouldn't you question these politicians who jump on this sex offender bandwagon?
The Senators are coming up for election and I smell a rat! Politicians in Oklahoma have been LYING to us for years about the recidivism rate. They have wasted MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of our tax payers money to promote themselves while keeping Oklahoman s in fear. It's time to Fire them and get politicians who respect the constitution!

It's no different in California. According to the California D.O.C. Recidivist rate for first time offenders is "LESS THAN 4%"!!

Highlights include the following:

* Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%),
burglars (74.0%),
larcenists (74.6%),
motor vehicle thieves (78.8%),
those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%),
and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).

2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape,

and 1.2% of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for homicide.

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Avatar for user 'RSO'

RSO | March 12, 2010 at 9:13 a.m. ― 7 years ago

Thank you MSLGWCEO for posting those statistics with their sources. If more people would take the time to understand this issue, then perhaps we can solve it and never have to experience another tragedy such as this again.

I've always thought of KPBS as being the the place to go for intelligent dialogue, but on this issue, and for a very few exceptions, I was wrong. The constant bomdbardment of sex offenders being broadcast by KPBS over the last couple of weeks has taken it's toll on me, so I've turned off my radio and most likely will not return until they regain their sanity. Whatever happened to progressive thinking KPBS?

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