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Brent King On Impact Of Chelsea’s Law Five Years After His Daughter’s Death

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Brent King's life changed completely over an eight-day period in 2010.

"In those eight days where my daughter was missing and discovered," he said, "we saw the worst evil and we saw the most beauty."

The sexual assault and murder of Poway teenager Chelsea King five years ago is a crime many San Diegans will never forget.

John Gardner, the man convicted of the crime, was also convicted of the rape and murder of teenager Amber Dubois of Escondido. He is now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in a California prison.

"The really scary part is when I sat down with the investigators while they were searching for my daughter and they showed me pictures of 54 people that lived within 15 miles of my house that were considered high risk (sex offenders)," King said.

King said the experience gave him a glimpse into a broken system and he vowed to do something about it.

Shortly after Chelsea's death, the King family and then-state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher lobbied successfully for Chelsea's Law. It was aimed at strengthening sentencing laws for sex offenses and providing more oversight for offenders on parole.

"We started with that cornerstone of the true one-strike life without the possibility of parole for the most heinous and violent offenders because if you can’t rehabilitate them, why would you let them out?" said Fletcher.

"Then we dug deeper into the parole system and the probation system when we realized that for certain offenders that were going to get out we probably wanted to monitor them for the rest of their life and so we created a lifetime parole charge," he said.

Chelsea's law also increased the length of sentences for offenders who commit forcible sex crimes against children and prohibits sex offenders from visiting places where children congregate.

From when the law was signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sept. 9, 2010 until August 2014, 99 people in San Diego County have been charged under Chelsea's Law, according to annual impact reports prepared by the Chelsea's Light Foundation.

Data from the San Diego County District Attorney's Office shows in 2014, 9 percent of the county's 328 sex-offender defendants were prosecuted under Chelsea's Law.

"Our ultimate goal isn’t to pass legislation to put people in jail," King said. "Our ultimate goal is to change culture and if there’s anything that we should have zero tolerance on, it’s on having our children attacked."

King and Fletcher said they are also working to get other states to adopt Chelsea's Law and they are gathering signatures to petition Congress to pass the Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Act.

"A lot of folks don’t realize that one in four girls and one in six boys will be victims of childhood sexual abuse in their lifetime," Fletcher said.

With the Chelsea's Light Foundation King is also "focusing on the beauty."

"We host a race every year in San Diego with all the proceeds going towards providing scholarships to kids in San Diego County to attend college," he said.

Since 2010, King said the foundation has awarded more than $300,000 in college scholarships to San Diego County high school students.

King said he would like people to honor Chelsea's memory by hugging their kids.

"I think our discussion that we should have is, 'is this good for my child, is this good for my kid’s generation?'" he said. "And if we make our decisions based on that, then we’ve made a good decision."

Editors note: During the interview, Brent King said 693 people had been convicted in California under Chelsea's Law since 2010. While Chelsea's Law is prosecuted statewide, data is only available for San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and Sacramento Counties.

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