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Parents of Chelsea King Speak

Parents of Chelsea King Speak

GLORIA PENNER (Host): Yesterday a San Diego Superior Court judge lifted a gag order in the case of convicted sex offender John Gardner, who pleaded guilty to the murders of Chelsea King and Amber Dubois. KPBS reported Amita Sharma spoke with the parents of Chelsea King earlier this week. She joins me now with more on the story. So what does it actually mean, lifting the gag order?

AMITA SHARMA (KPBS Reporter): Well he lifted the gag order on the information connected to the investigations of the murders of Amber Dubois and Chelsea King. But at the same time, he did not authorize anyone to release that information. In a separate decision yesterday another judge actually continued the seal of the warrants into these investigations; there were four search warrants. And so right now we stand by and wait to see whether the media asks for this information.

PENNER: And if the media does ask for the information, what is it that would be released?

SHARMA: Probably information on how these two girls were attacked and well as information on how authorities conducted the investigations.

PENNER: What did the King family say about why they didn’t want the gag order lifted?

SHARMA: Very simply, they didn’t think there was any news value to it. They didn’t think the public had anything to gain from learning of the last hour, the last moments of Chelsea King’s life. And in essence they felt like if this information were published, it would be like picking at an open wound – their family’s open wound and the open wound of the community. Here’s how they described it.

KELLY KING (Mother of Chelsea King): There's no one that can convince me that the brutal details of what happened to Chelsea is necessary, is relevant, is something that the public needs to be aware of. You know, my god, honor our daughter in a way that respects her dignity, our family’s dignity, and protects us in the community and her friends from going through any further pain and torment by hearing unnecessary facts.

BRENT KING (Father of Chelsea King): And as parents, there's not a minute that goes by that Kelly and I don’t play some terrible, vivid thing in our minds. We don’t need the details.

PENNER: So how did they respond to the fact that the gag order has been lifted?

SHARMA: They weren’t happy. You know, they went to court to make sure that this information wouldn’t get released. But, at the end of the day, the judge said that their request was too broad.

PENNER: Well, it’s quite easy to get caught up in the court case, but when it comes down to the murders of Chelsea King and Amber Dubois what did the Kings tell you about the kind of daughter that Chelsea was?

SHARMA: They said that she was a girl with big hopes and big dreams, that she didn’t waste a minute she had. She wanted to change the world. They said that she had applied – she was interested in 90 different colleges. She narrowed her list down to 11 colleges and actually got accepted to each one.

BRENT KING: She didn’t waste a minute. She was always full of energy – always full of positive energy, wanting to change the world. She couldn’t wait to go to college. She couldn’t wait for the next test, believe it or not. She couldn’t wait for the next morning. She just lived her life just always in motion. She did quite a process. She narrowed 90 colleges down to 11. Of those eleven that’s what she applied to. And of those 11 she was accepted to all 11.

PENNER: How are they coping with the loss of their daughter?

SHARMA: Well, they say that they're taking it moment by moment. They wake up in the morning; they say they're very grateful for what they have. I met them for the first time this week and I was struck both by their grace and their graciousness. They are clearly grieving, but there's also a strength about them – a sense of determination, a dogged determination that they're going to do whatever they can to protect children from predators. They were also -- went to great lengths to make us in the media, camera operators, news reporters, feel comfortable, feel at ease. They were very warm and welcoming.

PENNER: But they are determined to do something about Chelsea’s Law. How does Chelsea’s Law fit into the other sex offender laws that are already on the books?

SHARMA: Well Chelsea’s Law would require life imprisonment for forcible sex crimes against children under the age of 18. As we have said before on this program, there are laws already on the books that would do that. Had they been applied properly in the case of John Gardner when he first engaged in a crime like this, when he molested a 13 year old back in 2000, that he would have been put away for far longer than the six-year sentence that he served. I spoke about that to Brent King, and I said -- I asked him how John Gardner’s case had affected his view of our criminal justice system and here’s what he said.

BRENT KING: So as a parent you assume that the system is there to protect. You never assume that your daughter is going to be taken by a predator while she's on a run in a park. You don’t assume that. You worry about terrible things, but you don’t want to worry about that.

KELLY KING: Given the fact that these laws apparently are on the books.

BRENT KING: You trust. So we know that there are gigantic holes inside of the laws that are currently there. And part of Chelsea’s Law is to address the ones we see that are most glaring.

PENNER: When will they have a chance to address John Gardner and what he's done?

SHARMA: John Gardner is due to be sentenced on June 1st to two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. The day of the sentencing is when the parents of both Chelsea King and Amber Dubois come face to face with John Gardner and get to tell him how they feel about what he has done. I asked both Brent and Kelly what they plan to say to John Gardner and here’s how they put it.

BRENT KING: Again, every night when I go to bed I'm writing my words. And I have not put any on paper; they're in my mind. I can't wait for the day that I can stand in front of the sentence and bring my words out. My words will reflect Chelsea.