Gardner Sentenced To 3 Life Terms For Murders Of Chelsea King And Amber Dubois
Originally published May 14, 2010 at 2:28 p.m., updated May 14, 2010 at 10:46 p.m.
Judge David Danielsen sentenced John Gardner to three life terms without the possibility of parole for the murders of 14-year-old Amber Dubois and 17-year-old Chelsea King.
"At this time," Danielsen said in court, "it is the judgment and the sentence of the court that for the crime of murder in the first degree of Chelsea King under special circumstances…life without the possibility of parole. For the crime of murder in the first degree of Amber DuBois under special circumstances …life in prison without the possibility of parole."
The sentences capped an emotional hearing in which the girls' parents condemned their daughters' killer, calling him a coward who would burn in hell. Amber's mother Carrie McGonigle said no one can appreciate the horror that her life has become.
"You have taken my daughter and my best friend," McGonigle said. "You have taken my youngest daughter's role model and her innocence. You have taken a bright shining star from this community and our world away from us, and for what purpose? To serve your sick twisted, perverted mind. Today, justice is served. I do not hold the justice system guilty, I hold you guilty. Guilty for robbing each of us of these beautiful girls."
Chelsea's father Brent King said he blamed Gardner's mother - a psychiatric nurse - for indulging her son. King said she should have come to authorities when Amber disappeared last year and when searches got under way for Chelsea near her home. King said the criminal justice system has also failed.
"I am not alone in my frustration with a justice system that ten years ago identified this coward as a serious and violent threat to young girls, and failed to imprison him and monitor him for the rest of his life," King said. "I am angry at the so-called experts who repeatedly tell us that cowards like him, violent predators who target children, can be rehabilitated when all of us with a sense…with an ounce of common sense know that our children are not safe, and that these cowards pose an untenable risk to our kids."
Gardner did not address the grieving parents. He sobbed when a video was played of Amber as a young girl. He did lift his gaze when Chelsea's mother Kelly King told him to look at her.
To avoid the death penalty, the 31-year-old Gardner admitted last month to killing 14-year-old Amber of Escondido and 17-year-old Chelsea. He also pleaded guilty to attacking a jogger with the intention of raping her last December.
The murders of Amber and Chelsea horrified San Diegans. Amber, an Escondido High School freshman, disappeared on her way to school the day before Valentine’s Day last year. Her parents say she was carrying Valentine gifts for her friends and a $200 check to buy a lamb she planned to name Annette.
After more than a year of searches for the girl, Gardner led authorities to her skeletal remains in a remote area of Pala shortly after his arrest in March.
Chelsea disappeared after she went for a run in Rancho Bernardo Community Park February 25th. The Poway High School senior was on the cross country team, an honor student and she liked to play the French horn. Thousands of people turned out to search for her in the days after she disappeared. Her body was discovered in a shallow grave near Lake Hodges.
The killings spawned calls for tougher laws to lock up sexual predators. Gardner was a registered sex offender. A bill known as Chelsea’s Law is making its way through the state legislature and has received widespread bi-partisan support.
Chelsea’s Law would require lifetime parole for serious sex offenders. They would also have to wear GPS devices
Gardner was a convicted sex offender. Documents show authorities missed opportunities to put Chelsea King’s accused killer John Gardner away for years after he molested a 13-year-old girl in 2000.