Sex offender was linked to Chelsea King killing by DNA on her clothing
Three days after Chelsea King went missing, authorities identified registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III as her probable killer through DNA found on her underwear, according to search warrants unsealed today by a Superior Court judge.
The 17-year-old disappeared Feb. 25 while jogging near Lake Hodges in northern San Diego County. The next day, Sheriff's Department investigators found a pair of women's underwear along the jogging trail.
Blood was matched to King. And on Feb. 28, semen was matched to Gardner, whose DNA was in a database kept by the California prison system. Gardner had been in prison for five years for attacking a 13-year-old girl.
Gardner, 31, was arrested within hours of the DNA match. Two days later King's body was found in a shallow grave near the lake, about a mile from where the clothing was discovered.
While in jail, Gardner agreed to help investigators find the remains of Amber Dubois, 14, who disappeared in February 2009 while walking to class at Escondido High School.
On April 16, Gardner pleaded guilty to killing King and Dubois during rape attempts. Under a plea bargain, he will be spared the death penalty. He is set June 1 to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
To get Gardner to lead investigators to Dubois' remains, authorities had to promise not to use his cooperation against him to file charges, San Diego County Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis has said.
Investigators were unable to find other evidence linking Gardner to the Dubois' killing, Dumanis said. For that reason, a deal was struck with him: If Gardner would plead guilty, the death penalty would not be sought. The families of both victims agreed to the arrangement.
The search warrants also indicate that Gardner may have followed an 11-year-old girl in his car the day before he attacked King.
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Dubois and King. LA Times file.