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Authorities missed many chances to re-imprison sex offender and save Chelsea King and Amber Dubois


Authorities missed dozens of parole violations that would have sent registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III back to prison and kept him from raping and murdering two teenage girls in northern San Diego County, according to a report released Wednesday by the inspector general of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Among other violations, Gardner visited the grounds of a state prison in 2008, a felony that could have brought a life sentence as a third strike, the report said.

Also, a review of the data from the GPS device that Gardner was required to wear shows that on 158 occasions in a 13-month period he violated his parole by going near schools, leaving home after curfew or visiting a storage facility.

Gardner, 31, served five years in prison for attacking a 13-year-old girl before being released in 2005.  As a registered sex offender, he was required to abide by a lengthy set of rules about where he could live or visit -- all meant to keep him away from potential victims.

On May 14, Gardner was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to the Feb. 13, 2009, murder of 14-year-old Amber Dubois and the Feb. 25, 2010, murder of 17-year-old Chelsea King.

Dubois was kidnapped while walking to class at Escondido High School; King, an honor student at Poway High School, was attacked while jogging near Lake Hodges.

Among other deficiencies, the report notes that until recently, parole agents were not required to check  GPS data to see if parolees were abiding by the rules. Although those procedures have been changed, the process remains cumbersome and the policy changes “still fall short of the department’s goal of aggressively monitoring all sexual offender parolees.”

The shortcomings uncovered in how Gardner was supervised show “systemic problems that transcend Gardner’s case.”

The murders have led to calls from both families for toughening standards on convicted sexual predators. A bill dubbed “Chelsea’s Law,” written by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego) and supported by Gov. Schwarzenegger, would call for life sentences for offenders convicted of sexually assaulting minors.

In 2008, Gardner visited the grounds of Donovan State Prison in Otay Mesa. In an interview after his conviction for the murders, he told investigators that he was taking a friend to visit an inmate but never entered the prison, although being on the grounds would still constitute a felony that could have been prosecuted by the district attorney.

Gardner was spared the death penalty under a plea bargain. Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis said that without his guilty plea, her office would not have had enough evidence to prosecute him for the Dubois murder.

Gardner was linked to the King murder by a pair of her underwear with his semen on it. Arrested for King’s murder, he offered to take authorities to the spot northeast of Escondido where he had buried Dubois as long as that admission was not used against him in court.

In addition to the Dubois and King murders, Gardner pleaded guilty to attacking Candice Mancayo, 23, who escaped by punching him in the nose.

"Successful prosecution of Gardner's crime (going to the prison grounds) and administrative action in response to his parole violations would have sent Gardner back to prison, making it impossible for him to murder the two young girls and commit the attempted sexual assault," said the report by David R. Shaw, the correction department's inspector general.

Fletcher said the report "confirms what we all know: California's public safety system is in desperate need of reform. From our criminal sentencing structure all the way to our parole system, dangerous sex offenders have slipped through the cracks."

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: John Albert Gardner III in San Diego County Superior Court. Credit: Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (6)

Everyone of these offenders should be re-evaluated. Keep the most dangerous and one's with a violent past on the registry. As it stands now, it seems there are just too many to keep track of.

How about we change things up so that the sentences for those convicted of sexual and violent crimes against women and minors be tougher, longer and with more parole restrictions. We need to protect women and children and not re-victimize people by low sentencing standards and bad parole follow-up.

It just does not make sense to me that sentences for these types of offenses are not much stiffer. It angers me that these repeat offenders get out with light sentences, for "good" behavior, and then they slip through the cracks on parole only to commit more crimes.

We need to better protect women and children and offer less protection and coddling to convicted felons. California should take a lead and make a strong stand on these issues in the names of Amber Dubois and Chelsea King. It is the least we can do to honor their memory and to let their parents know that they did not die in vain.

There is blood on the hands of the parole department. Such a terrible shame.

We need to stop playing armchair quarterback. The Parole Dept is hammered for revoking paroles for small stuff like Gardner is guilty of, but they should be clairvoiant and know that this one violator is bad news? So, you want every parolee sent back to prison (at $50,000 per year) for smoking a joint? Or for letting his ankle bracelet battery go dead for a day? If that is what society wants, we need to get off the parole agent's back when he violates someone. Those guys can't win, the way they are treated by the media, and bloggers in particular.

Wow, one bright flame of intellect among the sea of kneejerk reactives who feel that laws should be made from anecdotal stories. Gardner is admittedly a monster, but for someone to seriously suggest that ANYONE should go to prison for life (the third strike) for dropping off a friend at a state prison parking lot is at the least draconian and at the most suggestive of the Islamic regimes people so love to bash. Why don't you just vote that people that: smoke pot, run red lights, take an office pen home, comment on news stories when on the clock(!!!) be summarily court martial-ed and shot in the back of the head. The cost of bullets is negligible compared to all those scary crimes that could be third strikes!

We have laws that can lock up these monsters for life.

The knee-jerk-reaction proposed One-Strike law, like the Three-Strikes law, would not work as voters intended and would cost tax payers billions of dollars while not making us or our children safer.


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