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In wake of killings by sex criminal John Gardner, San Diego supervisors move to warn residents about sex offenders in their neighborhoods

May 18, 2010 |  7:00 pm

John22 The San Diego County Board of Supervisors moved Tuesday to establish an e-mail warning system to alert residents that  registered sex offenders are living in their neighborhoods.

The move comes in the wake of sex offender John Albert Gardner III's admission that he raped and murdered two teenage girls in northern San Diego County. In a plea bargain with prosecutors, he was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The warning system, proposed by Supervisor Bill Horn, would give residents the kind of updated information about sex offenders that is already available to police departments. The state attorney general posts such information for the public but Horn said the information is often outdated.

The Escondido Police Department knew that Gardner was a registered sex offender and living in Escondido but never considered him a suspect in the February 2009 disappearance of 14-year-old Amber Dubois.

Gardner lived about two miles from her home. He was required to register as a sex offender after serving a five-year prison sentence for attacking a 13-year-old girl in Rancho Bernardo.

Horn said he made his proposal after meeting with parents suffering from "the heartbreaking news" of two murders by  "a sex offender who had been overlooked by a system that was supposed to keep track of him."

An Escondido police officer questioned Gardner six weeks after Dubois' disappearance when a woman said Gardner was stalking her in his car. In the car was an open can of beer and a 3-year-old child, the son of Gardner's girlfriend.

Gardner told the officer that he wasn't stalking the woman but only following her in a "road rage" moment after she cut him off on the road, Escondido Police Capt. Bob Benton said at a news conference Monday.

The woman left before the officer could question her, Benton said. The officer then wrote Gardner a ticket for the open container, lack of a driver's license, and lack of front license plate and let him go.

"He did everything he could under the law," Benton said of the officer.

The officer did not report the stop to the detectives investigating Dubois' appearance. At the time, Escondido police had a report that she may have been last seen in a red truck; Gardner was driving a gray Ford Focus.

Ten moths after being questioned and released by the Escondido officer, Gardner, 31, murdered Chelsea King, 17, a Poway High honor student. He has admitted killing King and Dubois.

The supervisors voted unanimously to ask staff members to develop a plan and cost estimate for implementing Horn's plan, which would allow residents to sign up for the e-mail alerts.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: John Albert Gardner III. Credit: Associated Press