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DNA match of semen found on Chelsea King's clothing led to sex offender's arrest, officials say

March 4, 2010 |  7:05 am
John Albert Gardner III was charged with murdering Chelsea King, and with assault in the December 2009 attack on a 22-year-old woman in the same park where Chelsea went jogging. Gardner was ordered held without bail and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Authorities arrested John Albert Gardner III in connection with the death of Chelsea King after a state lab linked semen found on the teen's clothes to him, authorities said.

Gardner, a registered sex offender, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the killing of King, who was last seen jogging near a San Diego County lake.

During a brief court hearing in San Diego, Gardner, 30, said through an attorney that he denied killing King. Handcuffed and dressed in a jail jumpsuit, Gardner himself did not address the court.

Gardner was arrested Sunday afternoon outside a restaurant near Lake Hodges. Authorities said the arrest was made after semen found on King's clothing was run through a national DNA database and was matched to Gardner.

The 230-pound Gardner, who is registered as living in Lake Elsinore, had been visiting his mother in Rancho Bernardo last week, officials said.

The California Department of Justice told Fox 5 San Diego that detectives were able to arrest Gardner two hours after the match came in.

In 2000, Gardner pleaded guilty to molestation charges involving a 13-year-old girl.

He served five years of a six-year prison term and wore a global-positioning system tracking device until 2008, when his parole term ended.

Me-chelseaking-map A dive team found King's body on a tributary of Lake Hodges, in a wooded area that had been the focus of an extensive search after a shoe was found there Saturday. A diver working his way up the tributary saw debris about 10 feet from the water. That discovery led to the grave.

The site is about half a mile from the parking lot at Rancho Bernardo Community Park, where King had left her car before heading out on the trail.

San Diego County prosecutors said Gardner could be eligible for the death penalty with the charges filed Wednesday. The prosecutors' office will decide at a later date whether to seek a death sentence.

-- Shelby Grad

More coverage by Times reporters Richard Marosi and Amina Khan in San Diego: Among the gated enclaves, anger and fear over Chelsea King's killing

Photo: John Albert Gardner III in court. Credit: pool photo

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